Uncertainty spread over large parts of the Valley after the deployment of additional forces prompted political leaders to say that this could be part of the plan to abrogate Article 35A. People in many areas started panic-buying of essential items.
Senior police officers in Jammu and Kashmir described the deployment of the extra forces as “routine”, and intended to relieve their stretched colleagues in the state.
New Delhi on Friday decided to dispatch an additional 10,000 personnel to Kashmir to “strengthen the CI (counter-insurgency) grid as well as for maintaining law and order”, according to the Union Home Ministry’s notification.
J&K Police Additional DGP (Law and Order) Muneer Khan said the “additional requisition of forces has been made to make up for the 200 companies that need to proceed to their battalions for mandatory training exercises”. State DGP Dilbagh Singh said the arrival of the additional forces was a law and order measure.
As the first batches of these troops started to fly in to Srinagar Saturday, political parties in the Valley warned the Centre against “thoughtless adventurism”. Former minister Sajad Lone, who is deemed to be close to the BJP, warned the Centre that “…adventurism will mean an investment in future for decades of violence and contempt for those who believe in Indian-ness”.
“Nobody seems to have the remotest idea of what is in the offing. The rumours of tinkering with Article 35A are spreading fast and there is no reaction from the state or the Central government,” Lone said in a statement. “If the government… indeed has any such intentions, it would be tantamount to stretching adventurism to unacceptable limits. Any adventurism will erode the credibility of those who believe in the concept of India…”.
Apprehensions that the Centre might remove Article 35A and Article 370 have been growing ever since Assembly elections were delayed, and President’s Rule was extended earlier this year.
There is fear in the Valley and in Muslim-majority districts of Jammu and Kargil that the move to remove Article 35A — which empowers the J&K Legislature to define permanent residents of the state — is intended to change the demography of the Muslim-majority state.
The deployment of 10,000 additional forces comes when thousands of paramilitary men called in to secure the Amarnath Yatra are already stationed in the state. A 100 companies (10,000 personnel) of central forces had been deployed to J&K after the February 14 terrorist attack in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed.
Asked why such large numbers of troops needed to be airlifted into the Valley, Additional DGP Khan told The Sunday Express: “Airlifting is less expensive for us. Highway is busy with (Amarnath) Yatra, and when troops are being moved in such large numbers, convoys can be prone to attacks.”
DGP Singh said the additional forces “will provide relief to over-stretched training companies on duty since the panchayat elections last year”. As the additional troops arrived, the J&K Police sent a wireless message asking the force to “communicate any shortfall of Riot Control Equipments/Gas Gun, TSMs etc”. Sources said all police stations have been directed to keep a satellite phone and bulldozer, and to send a need assessment for tin sheets required to “seal the roads”.
The additional deployment of forces also coincided with a communiqué from a senior government officer in Budgam district, asking tehsildars and naib tahsildars to provide details of Imams of all major mosques in the area. The administration later said the government wanted to engage the Imams in an anti-drug addiction campaign.
Former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti posted on Twitter: “Centre’s decision to deploy additional 10,000 troops to the Valley has created fear psychosis amongst people… J&K is a political problem which won’t be solved by military means. GOI needs to rethink & overhaul its policy.”
National Conference president Omar Abdullah said the Centre should repose faith in the Supreme Court and refrain from “bullying the people of the State with the unwarranted and intimidatory threats on annihilating Article 35A and Article 370”. People in the Valley were “going through anxiety in wake of the rumour mongering set afloat by the administration”, he said.
Government official-turned-politician Shah Faesal warned that “any attempt at tinkering” with Articles 370 and 35A “will breed a new phase of alienation in Kashmir”. Former lawmaker Engineer Rashid, who is in alliance with Shah Faesal, asked New Delhi to stay away from “misadventures”.