New Delhi: A major crackdown by the Jammu and Kashmir Police, large-scale preventive arrests, including that of mainstream politicians, booking local residents under stringent laws such as the UAPA and heavy deployment of security forces — all these resulted in keeping the law and order situation in Kashmir fairly under control during the one year since the Valley lost its special status, according to senior police officers.
According to data available with the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), while in 2017, there were 1,412 incidents of stone-pelting and violence reported in the Valley, the number saw a slight increase in 2018 with 1,458 incidents. This further rose to 1,996 in 2019. Out of the 1,996 incidents, 658 were reported in August alone. In 2020, until July, only 102 such incidents have been reported.
According to the J&K police, although August 2019, saw an increase in the number of these incidents, they were “sporadic” and “were controlled in time”.
“There was no major loss that occurred in these incidents. Not many people were injured and it was controlled well by the police and the outside forces,” a police officer said.
The number of people arrested for stone-pelting and violence went down last year, compared to 2018, but saw a marginal increase this year.
According to the data, 2,268 people were arrested for stone-pelting in 2018, which went down to 1,127 in 2019 and increased to 1,152 in 2020.
“The exercise of revoking the special status was very well planned. The authorities knew that there could be a backlash and, hence, there was such unprecedented deployment. The forces were moved to the Valley and a strict curfew was imposed. It has given us results as the incidents of violence were much less than expected,” a senior police officer from Srinagar told ThePrint.
“Moreover, there were very less civilian deaths reported, which we believe was a big achievement,” he added.
The UAPA cases
As part of a planned crackdown, 6,605 people — including miscreants, stone-pelters, over ground workers and separatists — were taken into preventive custody. The number of cases registered under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and people arrested under it was, however, higher in 2019 than this year.
According to the MHA data, more than 385 cases of UAPA were registered and 583 people were arrested in 2018. This number increased to 395 cases and 849 arrests in 2019, and came down to 261 cases and 444 arrests in 2020.
“There was an increase in the number of cases under UAPA because of the increased vigil and tough crackdown. It definitely acted as a deterrent,” said the officer quoted above.
‘Most people under PSA released’
On 5 February, Minister of State for Home Affairs G. Kishan Reddy informed the Rajya Sabha that a total of 389 people were in detention under the Public Safety Act (PSA) in Jammu and Kashmir.
Orders were issued against 444 people to be detained under the PSA in order to “prevent commission of offences involving breach of peace and tranquility, activities prejudicial to the security of the State and maintenance of public order”, said Reddy.
These detentions were reviewed on a regular basis and detainees released accordingly.
Currently, out of the 389 people detained initially, 239 have been released, while 150 are still in custody, a second police officer told ThePrint.
“Around 150 people are still in detention under PSA, but they will soon be released after completion of one year. The ones, who have been booked in terror-related cases, however, will continue to be in detention,” the officer added.
He said none of the politicians — mainstream or local — are now under detention, apart from People’s Democratic Party president and former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti.
“Everyone has been released. Our jails are almost empty. Some of the people have been asked to remain indoors with security, but that does not mean they are under detention. Also, most of the youngsters, who were detained for stone-pelting, have also been released,” the officer said.
The J&K administration believes that putting mainstream as well as local leaders under detention helped maintain law and order in the Valley.
“Lack and absence of any leadership to lead protests helped keep the situation under control. After Burhan Wani was killed in July 2016, more than 117 civilians lost their lives. Today, there are no casualties. Moreover, even now there is heavy deployment of forces as we cannot take any chances. The main aim was to ensure that there should be no loss of life — something we have achieved,” the officer said.