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Amid civilian killings, ongoing encounter, Amit Shah in J&K today; first visit since Article 370 scrapped

This is the first visit by Shah to Jammu and Kashmir after its special status was scrapped and bifurcated into two union territories on August 5, 2019.

The Union Home Minister was supposed to unveil the statue of Babasaheb Ambedkar at the entrance of the extended main building of PMC (File Photo)

In the backdrop of a series of civilian killings in the Valley, Home Minister Amit Shah will embark on a three-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday. During his stay in the union territory, the home minister is likely to hold a security review meeting in Srinagar apart from visiting some trouble-torn districts in the Valley.

This is the first visit by Shah to Jammu and Kashmir after its special status was scrapped and bifurcated into two union territories on August 5, 2019. Earlier Shah had visited the erstwhile state right after taking charge as the home minister in 2019. He had then reviewed security for the Amarnath Yatra and taken stock of progress on central schemes.

Sources said Shah is likely to arrive in Srinagar around 11 am on Saturday, following which he will chair a unified command meeting at Raj Bhawan on security. The meeting will be attended by the four corps commanders, J&K police top brass and chiefs of intelligence bureau and central armed police forces among other top officials.

Following this, Shah has some “political engagements” lined up at Sher-e-Kashmir International Convention Centre.

A security personnel stands guard near the venue of Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s scheduled public meeting in Jammu. (Photo: PTI)

According to sources, Shah will also use the visit to pay homage to martyrs of security forces and civilians killed in terror attacks recently. “He is likely to visit the families of Makhan Lal Bindroo, a Sikh teacher and a Muslim civilian, all killed by militants recently,” a Jammu and Kashmir administration source said.

More importantly, Shah is likely to visit Lethpora in Pulwama district of South Kashmir and pay homage to the 40 CRPF martyrs killed in a terror attack in February 2019. It was at Lethpora that a suicide bomber drove a bomb-laden car near a CRPF convoy headed to Srinagar from Jammu and exploded it killing 40 jawans. The attack was followed by air strikes by India on Pakistan’s Balakot.

Sources said during his visit to the union territory, Shah will also have meeting with Jammu and Kashmir administration and take stock of progress on development projects.

Shah will fly to Jammu on Sunday where he is likely to address an IIT convocation in the morning followed by a public rally in the afternoon. He is also likely to meet a delegation of Kashmiri pandits before flying back to Srinagar.

On Monday, Shah is likely to have a meeting with civil society delegates at SKICC.

While Shah’s visit had been in the works for over a month, sources said the recent civilian killings in the Valley have made it more crucial from a security point of view.

“Police and the intelligence bureau are likely to brief him about what steps it has taken to prevent such attacks and what it plans to do to dismantle the network targeting migrant workers and non-Muslim Kashmiris,” a security establishment officer said.

In the past two weeks, the Valley has seen 11 civilians, including migrants and non-Muslim Kashmiris, being killed by militants. While security forces have gunned down 17 suspected militants in the period and tightened security across the Valley, sources said, the network is still at large and security forces are at their wit’s end to ensure no untoward incident happens during the minister’s visit.

Shah’s visit is beginning in an atmosphere of bad optics where government’s claims of having ushered in peace through abrogation of Article 370 and establishing normalcy in the Valley is being called to question. Not surprisingly, top officials in the intelligence bureau and the central armed police forces have been camping in Srinagar for almost a week to ensure Shah’s visit has a smooth sailing.

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