4,500 Army troops sent to Jammu

7 August 2008
The Indian Express
Manu Pubby

New Delhi: With over 4,500 soldiers called in to maintain peace across Jammu, Kathua and Samba following the Amarnath protests, the Army's presence is at an all-time high in the state. While most troops in the state are already tied up in the counter-insurgency grid and regular duty along the Line of Control and the international border, the Army for the first time has been forced to call in troops from outside Jammu and Kashmir to come to the aid of the civil administration. Sources in Jammu said that several Army columns from the Yol-based 9 Corps have been called to Jammu and adjoining regions to carry out flag marches and maintain peace. The newly-raised corps is based in Himachal Pradesh. With more than 45 Army columns on the street — each column has close to 100 troops — the current deployment in Jammu and Kashmir marks the largest ever involvement of Army troops in an internal law and order problem. Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor does not rule out the possibility of sending in even more troops to control the situation. “There is a possibility of sending some additional forces and police forces in the state and we will be able to bring the situation under control,” he said on Wednesday. Even during the Gurjjar agitation in Rajasthan earlier this year, not more than 30 columns were deployed across the state. What has startled military observers is that over 4,500 troops have now been deployed in the relatively smaller region of Jammu, Samba and Kathua. “It is surprising that over 45 columns have been deployed in such a small area where the Army already has a lot of other commitments. Riot control is different but the Army is also being asked to impose curfew. This is a job of the police,” said a senior officer in Jammu. Experts say the military should only be deployed to maintain critical installations like the national highway or the railway line. What has surprised the Armed Forces is that even after two weeks of violent protests, the Centre has not sent paramilitary forces in large numbers. Sources in Jammu said only two columns of central paramilitary forces have been sent so far. This is in stark contrast to the Gurjjar agitation where the Centre sent in more than 100 columns of paramilitary forces. This, even after the Defence Minister made it clear last month that Armed Forces should be used as the last resort and law and order issues should only be handled by the police and paramilitary forces.