Provide safety to sarpanches in Kashmir, Shinde tells forces

Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, who is on a three-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), has asked security agencies to provide adequate security to panchayat members.

Shinde also wanted the security forces to remain alert, ensuring zero infiltration ahead of the winter.

“The security of panches and sarpanches was discussed during the meeting. The Home Minister asked the state government and security agencies to take steps that will ensure a general sense of security among the grassroot-level representatives,” sources told Deccan Herald.

Shinde was briefed about measures taken by the security forces to check infiltration across the Line-of-Control (LoC) and details about counter-insurgency operations in the countryside during the Unified Headquarters meeting here, sources added .

The Unified Headquarters is the apex security grid in the state comprising top officials of the army, paramilitary forces, Central and state intelligence agencies, besides the state police.

A senior police officer said, among other issues, return of Kashmiri pandits to the Valley, fencing of the LoC and identification of places where presence of troops could be reduced were discussed in the meeting.

‘Security main concern’

Shinde also visited the famous Hazrathbal shrine. Responding to queries regarding the security measures for the panchayat members, the minister, flanked by Home Secretary R K Singh, said: “The state government will look into that. The chief minister (Omar Abdullah) has already taken a lead and assured that security will be provided to them.”

Shinde visited a Border Security Force post on the LoC at Neeru, Gurez sector in north Kashmir on Saturday morning where he interacted with troops of the 113 Battalion.

In what is believed to be a symbolic gesture towards normalcy in the state, the Home Minister took everyone by surprise, making a sudden appearance at the busy Lal Chowk in the evening. Eyewitnesses said the Home Minister also stopped for a brief moment near the historic Ghanta Ghar (clock tower) at Lal Chowk and inspected a security bunker.

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