Following the February 14 terror attack on a CRPF convoy which killed 40 personnel, the CRPF, Army and BSF have decided to move their convoys in the Valley in a common “window of time”, during which civilian traffic will remain suspended.
Also, the Jammu-Srinagar convoy movement will be spread over two days, with more stops in between, instead of the current one-day trip. The capacity of transit camps which fall on the route, like Qazigund, is likely to be increased. The timing of convoy movement is also being changed, as convoys are usually targeted in the sensitive areas of Pulwama and Pampore during the afternoon.
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Since the attack last week, the CRPF has held a series of meetings with the Army, BSF and Jammu and Kashmir Police to work out a solution that minimises the threat of vehicle-borne IEDs, while causing minimum disruption to normal traffic.
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“Because there are three different forces with massive presence in the Valley, there is movement almost everyday, through the day. Stopping traffic for such disparate movements can bring the whole Valley to a halt and also make us vulnerable. So we have decided that the three forces will move together in a single window of time. This will reduce both vulnerability and traffic disruption,” said a senior officer who attended these meetings.
He said that even if the security forces are unable to move together for various reasons, the attempt would be to move the convoys one after another, within short intervals of times. “In those intervals, civilian traffic can be allowed,” he said.
“The real trouble starts after Qazigund and Banihal. There are stretches which are vulnerable to attacks on convoys. We have seen that most of these attacks take place in the afternoon. So we have decided to cross these stretches in the mornings. Ideally, we should reach Srinagar from Qazigund in two-and-a-half hours,” said another officer.
According to sources, this means that the convoys would have to make a night halt. “We have decided that our convoys will halt at Qazigund at night, and then leave for Srinagar early morning the next day. For this, we are increasing the holding capacity of our Qazigund camp which currently stands at 1,000 men,” said a senior CRPF officer.
The CRPF convoy that came under attack last week had left Jammu at 3.30 am and was attacked in Pulwama at around 3 pm. It made a halt at Qazigund, where half the personnel in the 78-vehicle convoy shifted to bulletproof vehicles. Probe finds car bumper, remains of can in which explosives were packed
Now, schedules are being worked out in such a way that the convoys are smaller, and more men can get bulletproof vehicles. “We need to increase the capacity at transit camps so that we can hold more personnel, for two-three days if required, and are not forced to send them because of increasing numbers,” said an officer.
Last week, Home Minister Rajnath Singh had announced that no civilian vehicle would be allowed during convoy movement. This was the practice followed earlier, but was discontinued in mid-2000s. Sources said stopping civilian vehicles from entering the Jammu-Srinagar highway requires massive logistics, as the highway has several openings which need to be manned. Additionally, the J&K Police will have to spare as many traffic policemen to regulate traffic in those areas.
With a common window for convoy movement, the traffic restrictions are expected to be limited to about two-and-a-half hours per area. The attack last week was the first on a convoy in the Valley in about two years. According to government data, from 2013 to 2016, 17 security personnel were killed in nine attacks on convoys of security forces in areas including Nowgam, Pulwama, Bijbehara, Pampore and Kud.