Troops deployed for Amarnath yatra may stay back

Security personnel stand guard as a bus full of pilgrims moves towards the holy cave shrine of Amarnath in the Pahalgam district of Jammu and Kashmir on July 2, 2018. (PTI File Photo)

With Panchayat polls in Jammu & Kashmir scheduled to be held from October, nearly 24,000 paramilitary personnel who were deployed for the annual Amarnath pilgrimage are likely to stay back in the Valley.

The Jammu & Kashmir Police have sent a formal request to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) seeking more troops, besides retaining the ones who were deployed for the 'yatra' security.

“We have made a formal request to the MHA seeking additional forces for the Panchayat polls,” Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) Muneer Khan said.

“We have made the request and its MHA’s prerogative. It remains to be seen whether MHA would issue directions for holding back the forces that are already in Kashmir,” Khan added. 

Sources said keeping in view the precarious security situation in the Valley and timing of Panchayat polls, the MHA is expected to order holding back about 240 companies of the Central Reserve Police Force deployed in Kashmir for providing security cover to the annual Amarnath pilgrimage that ended on Sunday.

“There is a high probability that forces already deployed in Kashmir for yatra would be retained in the state. That way MHA can save the amount spent on the transit and accommodation of additional forces,” they said.

Officials said the police force was working out an elaborate security plan to ensure incident-free polls. The police will assess and survey the sensitive and hypersensitive areas going to polls and accordingly prepare a report on the requirement of additional forces to be sent to the MHA for approval.

Security arrangements in south Kashmir districts of Pulwama, Shopian, Kulgam and Anantnag are a challenge for the authorities due to the presence of local militants and accordingly “elaborate measures are being worked out.”

Since the last Panchayat polls that were held seven years ago, 16 Panchayat members have been killed and around 30 injured in militant attacks. The state has around 4,200 Panchayats with nearly 36,000 wards and the government would need at least 80,000 candidates for a successful election.

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