As the Central government deployed more soldiers in Kashmir, fear and panic struck the valley as people rushed to stock up on essentials. The petrol stations were jammed packed with vehicles to fill up their tanks. Taking advantage of the situation, shopkeepers and vegetable vendors hiked the prices of their products.
In light of the confusion, the Commissioner Secretary Home Shaleen Kabra and Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Baseer Ahmad Khan called a late night press conference and urged the people to calm down. They assured that safety and security of the people of the state is the government’s responsibility.
“It is the Yatris (pilgrims) and tourists who come from outside are easy targets. The yatris and tourists visit tourist spots and roam freely. The advisory was issued taking into consideration specific intelligence inputs,” Khan said.
Several Indian intelligence reports revealed the possibility of multiple suicide attacks in the Valley and targeting of security forces by improvised explosive device (IED) in Sopore area by Pakistani-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorist group. Furthermore, reports stated that the NIA had received input that JeM’s chief Masood Azhar’s brother Ibrahim Azhar had been seen in PoK’s Muzaffarabad, last month. Intelligence sources say that JeM cadre have established Border Action Teams under the leadership of Ibrahim Azhar.
Ibrahim has reportedly provoked the JeM cadre that he wants to die fighting the Indian security forces in Kashmir, who in October 2018 had gunned down his son in Awantipora. The heightened security in Kashmir is to counter the JeM, Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) and Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT) whose members have believed to have infiltrated into Kashmir.
A senior J&K Police said the security forces recovered M24 sniper rifle and anti-personnel mines along the Amarnath pilgrimage route, thus the government decided to curtail the yatra. “With personnel freed from yatra duties, the security forces can now concentrate on counter-insurgency grid,” he said.
Meanwhile, politicial leaders in Kashmir added to the panic-griped state saying that this was the central government’s tactic to remove Article 35A. The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader and former chief minister of J&K, Mehbooba Mufti said India has chosen territory over people. Omar Abdullah, the vice-president of National Conference (NC) questioned the government’s decision to move the tourists and pilgrims out of J&K. “State Road Transport Corporation buses are being deployed to move people out of Pahalgam and Gulmarg. If there is a threat to the yatra, why is Gulmarg being emptied,” he asked.
Not to be left behind, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, the Hurriyat chairman said the removal of Article 35A was to change the demography of the J&K. “The provision was negotiated by the regional electoral parties and is an Article of faith, which should not be breached,” Farooq said. “Such measures will not change the reality that Kashmir is an issue and has to be resolved,” he explained.
Kashmir remains a territorial dispute between India and Pakistan that goes back to the 1800s. Just a few days ago, the U.S. President Donald Trump offered to mediate the Kashmir issue but New Delhi rejected the gesture saying its a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan.