Kashmir authorities are working on a new plan to protect "soft targets"- ahead of PM Modi's visit

New Delhi, April 18: A fresh spell of terror attacks and threatening letters to potential targets in the valley ahead of the Prime Ministers scheduled visit has forced the security and intelligence apparatus to drastically revise the protection system of the religious minorities, non-local workers and members of the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) in Jammu and Kashmir.
 
Kashmir authorities are working on a new plan to protect "soft targets"- ahead of PM Modi's visit

This spree of armed attacks, which began on 19 March 2022, has left 7 persons dead and 6 more injured in less than a month. Apparently it is aimed at spreading a fresh wave of terror, causing exodus of the minorities besides failing the annual Amarnath pilgrimage and, more importantly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's first civilian and political visit to Jammu and Kashmir after abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019.

For the first time after several years, authorities are expecting 8 lakh pilgrims to visit the cave shrine in the 43-day-long spiritual odyssey which is scheduled to begin on June 30 and end on 11 August. The Centre has decided to provide an additional paramilitary reinforcement of 40,000 personnel for the pilgrims' protection. The yatra was cut short by over two weeks due to the erstwhile State's organisational changes at the end of July 2019. It could not be conducted due to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021.

Extraordinary significance is attached to Modi's visit, tentatively scheduled on April 24, as the Prime Minister, who was a frequent visitor to J&K from 2014 to 2019, has not visited the UT for nearly three years. Both his visits in October 2019 and November 2021 were restricted to celebration of Diwali with the troops in Jammu's border district of Rajouri.

Amid some official meetings, attending a gathering of sportspersons, laying foundation stones and inaugurating some major development projects, the Prime Minister is tentatively scheduled to address two massive gatherings of the members of PRIs and Urban Local Bodies at Samba in Jammu and SKICC in Srinagar. The success of these events would obviously puncture the world-wide narrative, as assiduously sustained by the international media and a section of the Indian press, and convey to all concerned that the interventions done in 2019 were history and a fait accompli.

Both, a massive pilgrimage through a flourishing tourist season and participation of thousands of the Kashmiri representatives in Modi's first public meetings in Jammu and Kashmir post-2019, would go in sharp contrast to the situation in 2019-20. There were curfew-like restrictions for 2-3 months and a separatist-sponsored shutdown for 4-5 months. Most of the prominent mainstream leaders and hundreds of their lower rung workers and separatist activists were detained in jails and Police Stations for about a year. Even the telephone and internet services remained paralysed for several months.

In this backdrop, any impression of normality in Kashmir could completely prick the balloon of the Kashmiris' victimhood and collective dismissal of the State's reorganisation and withdrawal of the semi-autonomous status. Obviously, everybody placed in the anti-India, anti-Modi, anti-BJP ecosystem, including the powers sustaining an armed insurgency since 1989, would lose a critical argument. More significantly, this all is happening at a time when withdrawal of the US and NATO troops from Afghanistan and Russia's war on Ukraine are impacting everything from economy to politics in South Asia.

Notwithstanding the official claims and statistics of the security and Police agencies, 50-70 foreign terrorists are believed to have infiltrated into the valley in the last 12-14 months. Some well-placed officers insist that not less than 60 Pakistani militants were currently active in the valley. Of them, 10-12 are believed to be operating with their fresh local recruits in the capital city of Srinagar alone. An audacious attack on a paramilitary post, in which one CRPF personnel was killed and another was left critically injured on April 4, is a vital indication of the foreigners' presence. This kind of attack in Maisuma, close to the commercial hub of Lalchowk, has occurred for the first time since 2005.

The killing on April 10 of two Pakistani militants, who had established their hideout in a neighbourhood girdled by CRPF-guarded hotels and guesthouses, strengthened the belief of a remarkable guerrilla presence in the UT's summer capital. Officials revealed that the same terrorists had planned and executed the fatal attack on the CRPF post. They insist that at least 20 small consignments of arms and ammunition, delivered through drones across the International Border in Jammu, had reached Srinagar, Pulwama and Budgam districts since January 1, 2021.

"They want to spread a wave of terror and fail everything from tourism and pilgrimage to trade, education and elections. Most of them have been given pistols and grenades and they don't have the capacity and training to attack the armed forces. That's why they are attacking only the soft targets. Everybody seen to be on India's side is their target. Non-Kashmiri workers, Muslim or Hindu, Kashmiri Pandits and Hindus, Panchayat and BDC members, municipal councillors, political workers and media-persons are their first target", said an officer. He asserted that "all appropriate measures" were being put in place to neutralise the gunmen and their over-ground workers.

In the current week, top Centre and UT officials, including the Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla, Director Intelligence Bureau Arvind Kumar, Special DG IB Tapan Kumar Deka, UT's Additional Chief Secretary Home RK Goyal and Director General of Police, Dilbag Singh, visited different vulnerable areas and held a series of meetings with the concerned agencies in Srinagar. Knowledgeable sources said that the decades-old policy was being revised and a new strategy adopted to fail the fresh enemy plan.

Even the representatives of the Pandits living in Kashmir continuously since 1990 have expressed apprehensions that the current spree of attacks on the non-Muslims, non-locals was a "fresh conspiracy to create a 1990-like mass exodus". They are highlighting the threatening letters delivered on behalf of 2-3 terror groups in Srinagar, Baramulla and Pulwama.

Manzoor Ahmad Bangroo, a Sarpanch of Goshbug Pattan, is the latest fatal casualty in this series of attacks. He was shot dead in an orchard close to his village on April 15. A resident Hindu Rajput, Satish Kumar Singh, was gunned down at his home in Kulgam district on April 13. One CRPF man was killed and another left injured in an attack at Maisuma on 4 April. SPO Ashfaq and his brother Umar were shot dead near their home at Chattabug in Budgam on 26 March. Selection Grade constable of J&K Police Aamir Hussain Lone was gunned down at Soura on 22 March. Army's local counterinsurgent helper Tajamal Dar was shot dead at his village Gotapora in Budgam on 21 March, days after a Kashmiri Muslim soldier was kidnapped and killed in the same district.

The chain of attacks on members of the minority community and non-local workers began with firing on a carpenter, Mohammad Akram of Bijnor UP, at Arihal Pulwama on March 19. He was left injured. A similar attack happened on golgappa vendor Biswajit Kumar of Bihar in Gangua Pulwama on March 21. It was followed by an attack on a driver and conductor of a truck from Pathankot in the same district on April 3. Resident Kashmiri Pandit Bal Krishen alias Sonu was attacked at his pharmacy in Chotigam, Shopian, on 4 April. Sonu Sharma of Pathankot was attacked in Pulwama on April 7. The victims of all these attacks were left injured.

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--indianarrative