Army returns to Srinagar

Flag marches held, but Centre claims deployment purely for deterrence

Army returns to Srinagar

The ostensible reason for deploying the Army in the state capital is to bring normalcy back to the town and the Valley, which has seen an upturn in violence because of alleged deaths in CRPF firings over the past few weeks.

Following a green signal from the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), by Wednesday evening an Army convoy moved into Srinagar, an action which Army officials in South Block refused to describe as “deployment” or even as “flag march”. All that senior officers were prepared to say was that the Army detachment was being stationed as part of a state of readiness so that it could be pressed into service at brief notice.

Union Home Secretary G K Pillai arrived here along with two senior officials to review the situation in Kashmir. He met Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. That the Centre was concerned with the latest developments in the state was evident after Governor N N Vohra was summoned to New Delhi on Tuesday afternoon for consultations.

Violent protests

Reports in Srinagar suggested that flag marches were conducted in curfew-bound Kashmir to maintain law and order following violence protests across several towns in the Valley. The people, however, defied curfew restrictions at several places forcing the police and the paramilitary to use force.

People defied curfew restrictions and held demonstrations in Chattabal, Qamarwari, Gangabug, Tengpora, Nowgam, Chadoora, Pahalan, Pattan, Baramulla,Kakapora and Nayen. But Inspector General of Police (IGP) Farooq Ahmad said the situation was under control. Barring some minor incidents the situation was peaceful, he added.

Indefinite curfew was imposed on parts of Kashmir Tuesday evening after three persons were allegedly killed in firing by security forces. The Army staged flag marches in old Srinagar and Civil Lines area besides a few other towns.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Obadullah had earlier requested the Central government to deploy the Army in some of the troubled areas to bring the situation under control.  But the Central government did not outright accede to the request, deciding to use the the Army unit stationed in Srinagar as a “deterrent”. Following the 2003 ceasefire with Pakistan, the Army was withdrawn from Srinagar in 2004.

CRPF left to enforce order

The Border Security Force (BSF) was withdrawn a year later leaving only the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) to maintain the law and and order situation.  As and when deployed, the Army’s job will be to maintain the curfew order issued by the state rather than restoring the law and order situation, which will continue to be the responsibility of the CRPF.  The Army would avoid any direct confrontation with the people.

Agitators’ demand

The Defence Ministry, however, is unlikely to accede to the agitators’ demand of diluting the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.  Defence Minister A K Antony is of the opinion that the armed forces require special legal cover to function in troubled spots.

The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) has been in force since July, 1990. Initially, it was applicable to areas within 20 km of the Line of Control in Rajouri and Poonch districts as well as in Anantnag, Baramulla, Budgam, Kupwara, Pulwana and Srinagar districts.

In August 2001, the Act was extended to  Jammu, Kathua, Udhampur, Poonch, Rajouri and Doda when these districts were declared disturbed.  The Jammu and Kashmir authorities have cancelled the curfew passes issued recently to the people, including journalists.

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