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PM Modi won’t hoist tricolour in Kashmir, no plan now to scrap Article 35A, govt says

Security is being tightened in Jammu and Kashmir in the wake of ‘credible inputs’ of a Pakistan-backed terrorist attack on Amarnath Yatra pilgrims.

Security personnel leave after an encounter with militants on the outskirts of Srinagar | S Irfan/PTI
Security personnel leave after an encounter with militants on the outskirts of Srinagar | S Irfan | PTI

New Delhi: The Modi government has no immediate plans to remove the controversial constitutional provision of Article 35A in Jammu and Kashmir, let alone consider splitting the troubled Himalayan state into three, government sources told ThePrint Saturday.

The sources also denied the speculation that Prime Minister Narendra Modi could unfurl the national flag at Srinagar’s Lal Chowk on Independence Day. The PM will unfurl the flag and deliver a speech at the Red Fort in the national capital, according to tradition.

However, plans are afoot to unfurl the tricolour in every district of Jammu and Kashmir, they said.

Amid panic in the Kashmir Valley and wild speculation on social media following new deployment of security forces in the region, government sources said that security is being tightened in the state in the wake of “credible inputs” that Pakistan-backed terrorists were planning a major terrorist attack on Amarnath Yatra pilgrims.

On Friday, tourists in the state, including pilgrims, were asked to return as the Modi government raised alert levels and stepped up security in the state.

The sources also disputed the charge that several thousands of additional personnel from the Central Armed Police Forces – the CRPF, the BSF and the SSB – have been brought into the state and more are on the way.

“There are no additional security personnel that are being brought in as far as figures being speculated in the social media are concerned. Elections are to be held in the state and there is a rollover, meaning new personnel are being brought into the state to replace some of the existing ones,” said a source in the security establishment.

“Also, in wake of the security alert, some additional personnel have been brought in for overall searches and for deployment before the Independence Day celebrations,” added the source.

While the government has confirmed that around 10,000 security personnel have been moved to the state, speculative numbers have ranged from 20,000 to 40,000.

Also read: ‘Wonderful meal, warm chat’: India, Pakistan envoys bond in Islamabad amid Kashmir tension

Fear in Kashmir

Jammu and Kashmir has been gripped by fear amid rumours that the Modi government is planning to remove Article 35A, a provision that gives special privileges to residents of the state.

BJP’s state as well as national leadership has been pushing for the removal of the constitutional provision.

Trifurcation of the state to make Kashmir and Ladakh Union Territories is another rumour that has caught on in the past few days.

“No such move is being planned,” a high ranking source in Kashmir said.

Safety of Amarnath pilgrims a concern

Multiple sources in the defence and security establishment told ThePrint that the safety of Amarnath Yatra pilgrims became a concern in the wake of intelligence inputs.

The sources said that any untoward incident targeting the pilgrims will have a ripple effect across the country, something the Modi government can ill afford.

“Hence, a decision was taken to cancel the yatra and ask the yatris to go back,” said a third source.

Over the last two weeks, several top officials from Delhi have visited Jammu and Kashmir, including National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Indian Army chief General Bipin Rawat.

Based on the situation on the ground, the government took the decision to tighten security measures and carry out intense searches, especially along the routes of the yatra.

The searches, before and during the yatra, led to the recovery of a US-made sniper rifle, an anti-personnel mine with a markings of Pakistan Ordnance Factory, Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), IED container, IED circuit board, IED initiating mechanism and a remote control device.

Also readMilitants in Kashmir using new IED modules to target Amarnath pilgrims & security forces