Srinagar: Security was increased across Kashmir ahead of Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s visit Saturday. This is Shah’s first visit to the Valley since 5 August 2019, when Article 370 was repealed.
A thick security cover has also been thrown around the BJP office at Jawahar Nagar in the city where Shah is likely to pay a visit.
The Jammu and Kashmir Police have also seized several two-wheelers and people are being frisked and their documents being checked at every corner. Even women are being frisked by male security officers on the ground, and their bags are being checked thoroughly.
Pandurang K. Pole, Divisional Commissioner of Kashmir, however, said the security has been increased due to the recent killings in the Valley. “Home Minister’s visit is coincidental. We have increased the security checks on the ground keeping the recent spate of killings in mind. Two-wheelers are being seized as counter-tactics against OGWs (over ground workers) and militants. They have been using bikes for the recent attacks, with small weapons,” Pole told ThePrint.
“Having said that, we have not issued any direction to harass any civilian for no reason. People can roam around on designated routes which are not shut for security reasons. They can also use bikes but with proper documentation. If the person is caught without proper documents, in that case, it (the vehicle) will be seized,” Pole said, adding that strict action will be taken in case “police forces harass public in the name of checking.”
A J&K police personnel, who did not wish to be named, told ThePrint, that intense frisking is necessary “to prevent any terror activity.”
“Directions have to be implemented by us on the ground. At times people will be harassed even if that’s not our intention. It is collateral, can’t help it. We have to do intense frisking, if necessary. Even have to ask the person to take out the pherans, because militants have been using small weapons recently and hiding them inside their pherans as a tactic. So we have to act smartly. Our motive is to prevent any terror activity or any untoward situation,” the police personnel said.
Roads leading to Sher-i-Kashmir International Convention Centre (SKICC) have been made off-limits for three days starting Saturday as the Union home minister is expected to attend an event there, PTI quoted officials as saying.
Reports also said that 50 companies of additional paramilitary forces are being inducted into the Valley in the wake of the recent spate of civilian killings.
Bunkers manned by paramilitary CRPF have come up in several areas of the city as well in other parts of the valley, PTI quoted officials as saying. They said the aim of constructing new bunkers and putting more personnel on the ground was to cut the free movement of militants.
Mobile internet services on a dozen towers — mostly in the areas where non-local labourers were killed in the past week — were snapped three days ago as part of the security measures, the officials said.
‘People are scared’
Shopkeepers in the Valley, meanwhile, said people are not stepping out because they are scared and afraid of their vehicles being seized by the police.
Mohammad Yunus, a shopkeeper in Lal Chowk, said: “My shop is open but nobody is really coming today, it’s raining very badly that’s one reason. But the main reason is that people are very scared because of the security. I’m a local, even I was checked thrice on my way to the shop, frisked properly. I preferred walking and not using my bike because you never know when they can seize it. So I think people are avoiding unnecessary hassle and harassment and preferring to stay indoors. It’s not new in Kashmir”.
Imtiyaz Bhat, another shopkeeper who runs a general store at the central market, said, “People are not really turning up today because they have to walk, if they use scooty or bikes, it may get seized. And walking is not possible today because it’s raining. So that’s the reason you don’t see any person on the streets.”
(with PTI inputs)