Hurriyat Set To March To Camps, J&K Takes Army Help16 September 2010
The Indian Express
Srinagar: At a time when the Jammu and Kashmir government is demanding withdrawal or amendment of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act while the Centre is divided over the issue, the Army and police on Thursday formulated a joint strategy to counter the protests on the streets. At a high-level meeting of the core group headed by CM’s security advisor and General Officer Commanding, 15 Corps, Lt Gen N C Marwah on Thursday, the Army and the J-K Police framed the strategy, especially in view of the hardline Hurriyat group’s call to march to security force camps to “hand over a reminder to the troops to leave Kashmir” next week. Since the current round of mass protests began in the Valley, it was the first meeting of the core group at 15 Corps headquarters, to adopt a strategy to counter protest calendars. The J-K government’s move to involve the Army to counter public protests is being seen as a major departure from its earlier position and may weaken its AFSPA demand. In an appeal to the public, the Army asked them not to heed the separatist calendar and not to march towards their camps on September 21. “The Army makes a sincere appeal to the people to avoid being misled by Hurriyat leaders and avoid confronting Army garrisons or vehicles,” the statement said. “The Army also assures the people that it will continue to work for their safety, welfare and empowerment. This is a deliberate attempt to embroil the Army in the ongoing agitation and distract it from its primary role.” Officials are apprehensive that in case protesters are allowed to gather near camps of the Army, police, CRPF and BSF, it may trigger violence, leading to more civilian killings. The Army is worried as dozens of its camps, especially those of the counter-insurgency Rashtriya Rifles, are located inside townships and densely populated villages. Since the protests began on June 11, the Army has deliberately avoided any direct confrontation with the protesters, with even its convoys travelling only during the wee hours. Protesters too have generally kept away from Army camps and convoys. Source said formation commanders have been told to exercise maximum restraint in case protesters are able to make their way to a security force camp despite restrictions on September 21. A three-tier security will be in place around all camps that day. Local formation commanders, especially company commanders, have also been asked to take village elders into confidence to foil the plans of separatists. In rural areas, where the Army has been at the forefront of the counter-insurgency operations, it will intervene to counter protests. A senior police officer said the Army is being involved because the number of policemen is far lesser than needed. “It has become essential because of the spread of the protests. We want to prevent situations where policemen and CRPF have to open fire because there are not enough men available to contain protests,” he said. The police top brass seeking Army help ahead of the arrival of an all-party delegation to Srinagar is being seen more as a political move rather than a security measure, particularly with the ruling National Conference under pressure amid reports of the Congress and PDP reaching out to each other.