As panic gripped the Valley following the induction of 100 companies of central police forces and a few announcements by the state government, J&K governor Satya Pal Malik on Sunday appealed to the people to remain calm and not to believe in rumours. Malik reiterated that the people need not panic and the induction of forces be seen only in the context of conducting elections.
“Rumours about curfews and other actions should not be believed. There is some security related action being taken by the forces, but this is purely related to the Pulwama attack which is unprecedented one,” Malik he said.
“The response of security forces is guided solely by the need to counter both the impact and any further action that may be taken by terrorist groups who are still out to disrupt our country and its democratic processes,” the governor said while chairing an informal meeting of the State Administrative Council (SAC).
The state government had on Saturday ordered a slew of measures, including stocking of fuel, cancelling the winter vacation of the medical faculty and directing ration shops to complete the sale of foodgrains by evening, which had created panic among the locals.
The Governor had to clear rumours about the orders being part of a systemic crackdown on Valley and had to withdraw the order directing the complete sale of food grains at ration shops.
Malik called an informal meeting of the State Administrative Council to review the current situation in the state after the Pulwama attack and oversaw the gradual induction of additional Central Forces for election purposes.
At the meeting Sunday, the Governor was informed that an additional 100 companies of central police forces would be inducted in the state ahead of the general elections this year. A larger police force is required to conduct general elections peacefully as 400 companies of central police forces were operational during the recent Panchayat elections in the state. The Governor was also briefed that the security concerns in the Valley are much higher with the possibility of terrorist organisations increasing their activities against candidates and voters on a much larger scale.
The Governor was also informed that the supply situation of petroleum and other products in the Kashmir Valley is critically low due to the earlier blockage of the National Highway for seven days and the ongoing blockage for the past four days following Pulwama attack. According to current availability, the petrol stocks can meet the needs for just one day, diesel for four days whereas there is no stock of LPG in the Valley. As a precautionary measure, the Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir has rationed petrol and diesel supply, so as to conserve whatever is available for emergency purposes. The hospitals have also been instructed to increase the availability of medicines
He also said that some security-related action is being taken by the forces with regard to Pulwama attack and its sole purpose is to counter terrorist groups “who are still out to disrupt our country and its democratic processes”.
Citing PM Narendra Modi’s assurance towards the safety of Kashmiris living outside the state, the Governor said that the state’s Liasion Officers and helpline numbers have worked effectively so that students continue their studies safely. He also said that the media has exaggerated the issue and the number of students who have actually been injured or hurt in incidents is “not even in single digits”.
The political atmosphere in the valley went up in hysteria yesterday after the Governor issued the orders. Former J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said that the administration needed to take steps to reduce the panic. “People are hoarding food and fuel. Some government orders are adding to the sense of panic …My sister just went to four pumps to put fuel in her car and didn’t get a drop from any of the four. That’s what people in Srinagar are dealing with,” he said on Twitter.
National Conference President Farooq Abdullah said: “If the war takes places, matters will escalate and invite international notice. Is India ready to see the issue of Kashmir being raked up in the United Nations Security Council?” He also said that any misadventure aimed at “fiddling” with the special status of J&K (Article 35A) will have “serious far-reaching consequences” for the state and the country.2