Security is tightened in Kashmir, with drones and motorboats of the Central Reserve Police Force deployed as the valley sees spike in terror attacks in recent weeks killing at least 30
More than two years after stripping it of autonomy, Indian home minister has started a three-day visit to the disputed region of Kashmir amid heightened security that came following a growing internal escalation in the already tense valley.
More than 30 people have been murdered after a rise in violence there in recent weeks till October 20, including targeted killings of minority Hindus, Sikhs and migrant workers in the Muslim-dominated region.
Amit Shah reached there on Saturday morning, and immediately afterwards, he presided over a high-level security review meet in Srinagar, The Indian Express reported.
Prolonged encounters with terrorists, the growing threat of radicalisation, the killing of civilians, and an increase in cross-border infiltration -- these were on the agenda at the meeting, says NDTV.
This is Shah’s first visit to Jammu and Kashmir after the Centre scrapped its special status under Article 370 of the constitution and split the state into two Union Territories on August 5, 2019.
At that time, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist BJP-led government argued the move was necessary to restore stability and bring economic prosperity to the region.
But two years on, the valley continues to remain tense, with officials saying more local young people are being drawn toward militancy.
Shah had last visited the erstwhile state right after taking over as the home minister in June 2019.
After landing at the Srinagar airport, he also visited the family of Inspector Parvaiz Ahmad, who was killed by militants on June 22 as he was returning home after praying at a local mosque. Shah offered Ahmad’s wife a government job.
Security was tightened in Kashmir, with drones and motorboats of the Central Reserve Police Force being put in operation ahead of Shah’s visit, NDTV reported.
The CRPF’s Deputy Inspector General (Operations) Mathew A John said that snipers and sharpshooters were deployed at strategic places. “Vehicles are being checked and pedestrians are being frisked,” he added.
Over the last two weeks, 12 civilians have been killed in Kashmir. The Resistance Front has claimed responsibility for most of the civilian deaths.
The home minister was also slated to take part in some “political engagements” at the Sher-i-Kashmir International Convention Centre.
Shah is also scheduled to visit the families of Kashmiri Pandit pharmacist Makhan Lal Bindroo, a Sikh teacher and a Muslim civilian, all of whom were killed by militants recently.
He is also likely to visit Lethpora in Pulwama district to pay homage to the 40 CRPF personnel who were killed in a terrorist attack in February 2019.
The Jammu and Kashmir Police had on Friday seized several two-wheelers in Srinagar and shut down the internet in some areas. The residents were asked to collect their vehicles from the police after October 26.
The move came on the back of terrorism-related incidents in the Union Territory, police said, tweeting: “It has got nothing to do with the home minister’s visit.”
Civilian killings since 2020
Indian government data says 32 civilians have been killed so far this year; 41 were killed in the whole of last year, reports NDTV. Further, in the first nine months of this year, there were 63 cases of terrorist-initiated encounters and 28 instances of atrocities committed by terrorists were registered.
Kashmir has a history of an insurgency against Indian rule, and experts say the recent political changes have exacerbated this anger, a BBC explainer says.
Both India and Pakistan claim the territory in its entirety but control only parts of the region. The nuclear-armed neighbours have gone to war twice over it.