Fear patrols the streets of Anantnag
4 March 2001
The Indian Express
GAURAV C. SAWANT
ANANTNAG: Fear hangs heavy in the air here. There is deathly silence on the streets where Toyotas jostle with tongas for space. Even though it is early evening, the streets are desolate except for the children shopping for essentials like milk. Parents prefer to send their children to do the errands since they are seen as less of a threat, both by security forces and terrorists. There is heavy presence of police and the personnel of Central Police Organisations (CPOs) on the streets. The breathe-easy atmosphere prevalent during the first few days of the ceasefire has disappeared. A grenade explosion on Saturday evening at Kulgam bazar injured 17 persons, and the day before that another 14 were injured at Khudvani. Tension has once again become palpable, especially after the attack on army men on March 1, in which two personnel including Colonel S.P Janu were killed and Brigadier Bikram Singh grievously injured. Two civilians were also killed in the attack. However, people are now learning to live in the presence of security forces, terrorists, grenades and guns. District Collector (DC), Anantnag, G.A. Peer says the spirit of people of the state is very resilient. "While they have adapted themselves to the situation, we are trying our best to provide succour to the people. The people and the district administration, both are coping well in the given situation," he says. Thanks to the ceasefire, business and trade have picked up. Says Ghulam Hasan, a general merchandiser in Anantnag market: "Ceasefire is a very good thing. People are feeling safe enough to come out to buy things, but it alone is not enough to see us through this protracted crisis. The government has to do something more tangible to show it is keen to bring peace in the state." He has no suggestions to offer, and wants New Delhi to think of ways and means. Sustaining a population of 11.5 lakh people, Anantnag is one of the worst-affected districts of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). Since the ceasefire was declared, the army personnel have not been seen on the streets of Anantnag. The security is completely in the hands of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Border Security Force (BSF) and J&K police. The local administration too is doing a lot to bring peace to the district, says DC Peer, who belongs to Anantnag. The next "big day" is Id on March 6 and it has kept everybody on their toes. "We are trying to ensure that it passes off peacefully. Prohibitory orders have already been enforced to ensure peace in the district," the DC adds. But neither the security forces nor the district administration can ever be sure that they have adequate safeguards. The terrorists seem to be thinking of new ways and means to stay a step ahead. The terrorist attack in which Colonel Janu was killed not only shocked the security forces in terms of planning but also in execution. Janu had come to see off visiting Brigadier Bikram Singh at Janglat Mandi, a busy market place of Anantnag. As he was saluting the brigadier, a 75-year-old man came begging for alms. As the Colonel fished in his pocket for change, the beggar lifted his "phiran" (long Kashmiri dress), took out a gun and opened fire. A grenade and an AK-47 were recovered from the "beggar" who was killed in the crossfire. According to sources, the "beggar" could have been one of the Pakistani ex-servicemen who are now reportedly being pushed into the state as part of suicide missions to boost terrorism.