A letter purportedly issued by the office of the Senior Divisional Security Commissioner, Railway Protection Force (RPF), Srinagar, asking employees to stock ration and drinking water, not to keep their families in Kashmir, and to restrict leave due to the “emergency situation” has added to the fear and speculation in the Valley.
The Ministry of Railways immediately “revoked” the letter and said the officer “was not authorised to issue such a letter and did not have the approval of the competent authority to do so either”.
According to a clarification issued by the ministry, the Senior Divisional Security Commissioner of Firozpur Railway Division had proceeded on one-year study leave last week. The officer who issued the letter was “next in line” to occupy that post.
According to the letter, a “precautionary security meeting” was held on July 27, by Sudesh Nugyal, Assistant Security Commissioner (ASC), RPF, Budgam, after inputs from “different security agencies” regarding “forecast of deteriorating situation in Kashmir Valley and issue of law and order for a long period”.
Saying that “precautionary security measures” were discussed, the letter asks Railways officials to purchase, in advance, dry ration for at least four months “to meet any crisis situation”, “store drinking water for at least seven days consumption”, “keep their pitthu bag ready with sufficient amounts of eatables, drinking water, chocolates, money etc for emergency situations”.
The letter says that vehicles should be “fully filled” and hidden in safe places, staff leave should be “restricted”, and nobody should keep their relatives in the Valley. It asks local staff to send their families to “their relatives” or “native place” as they would be “more safe” there. The letter also asks officials not to negotiate with mobs, and not to allow them near Railways installations.
The letter came a day after a police wireless message asking officers to “communicate shortfall of riot-control equipment/ gas gun, TSMs” for “special law and order duties”.
When contacted, ASC (RPF, Budgam) Nugyal, who chaired the meeting, said: “This letter has not been issued by us. This is a fake letter and we have nothing to do with it… There is nothing like this and the situation is normal.”
Arun Kumar, Director General of the RPF, told The Indian Express: “The officer had never been to the Valley. He was not in any position to receive any inputs from any other security agencies. Security advisories and alerts from outside agencies do not go to him. So there could not have been any basis for such a letter, except his own perception of the place… He is to retire next month. In any case, the Inspector General of Northern Railways will be in Srinagar Monday to ask him why he issued such a letter”.
Railways will post a Senior Divisional Security Commissioner either on Monday or within the week, officials said.
Inspector General, RPF, Northern Railways, Sanjay Sankrityan, told The Indian Express: “I too received it (the letter) on WhatsApp. We are looking into it and checking who issued it… But I am saying that there is no basis to it”.
Railways spokesperson Smita Vats Sharma said the letter was issued based on the officer’s “own perception, which has no basis”.
Meanwhile, the SSP (GRP), Kashmir, also wrote to the Railways saying that he had “not shared any such information” on the situation in the Valley. “A letter… dated 27-07-2019 from your office is making the rounds on social media from early morning today, that you have received inputs from SSP, Railways, Kashmir regarding law and order problem in Kashmir Valley in the coming days… The undersigned has not shared any such information with you or any other agency in writing or through telephonic conversation. It is a matter of grave concern… you are required to desist from such act in future,” he said.
“It is easy to blame Valley residents for fear mongering but what are we to make of such official order which forecast a deterioration in the law & order environment and even predict disturbances lasting an extended period of time? Why is the government silent,” tweeted former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.