NEW DELHI/SRINAGAR: The Centre on Wednesday decided to deploy the Army in Kashmir for “deterrent effect” and it will be called in when necessary by the civil administration.
The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), which met under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, also decided that the Army would be in the “periphery” and not be deployed in congested areas, sources said.
Meeting in the morning after its overnight decision to deploy army in the wake of deteriorating law and order situation, especially in Srinagar, the Security Cabinet decided that it would be the civil administration that would decide where to place the Army units in restoring law and order.
Taking stock of the situation, especially in the light of three deaths due to the shooting in Srinagar on Tuesday, the Centre felt that curfew would be strictly enforced and mischief mongers will be put behind bars. It took note of the fact that the local administration has arrested many mischief mongers. The curfew, the sources said, would be enforced till normalcy is restored.
The CCS also decided to send Home Secretary Gopal K Pillai to Srinagar to make an on-the-spot assessment of the situation and report back to the Prime Minister on Thursday.
On Tuesday night, at the request of the state government, the Centre decided on deploying the Army to assist the civil authorities in restoring law and order in the wake of spiraling protests in Srinagar.
The Security Cabinet also felt that a “maximum crackdown” should be carried out against miscreants. The Army staged a flag march in some areas of curfew-bound Srinagar on Wednesday morning.
Home minister P Chidambaram, defence minister A K Antony, Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrashekar, NSA Shiv Shankar Menon, Home Secretary Pillai, and Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar attended the meeting.
Earlier, the Minister of State for defence M M Pallam Raju had said that the Army would remain on the streets in Srinagar till it was necessary but the government would like it to be short.
Meanwhile, Indian Army soldiers joined police and paramilitary troops enforcing a curfew across much of Kashmir on Wednesday, in a bid to help authorities quell violent protests in the insurgency-hit region.
The curfew was imposed Tuesday after two men and one woman died when security personnel opened fire to contain angry separatist demonstrations that have been fuelled by the deaths of several protesters over the past month.
Military trucks and jeeps carrying soldiers in full battle-gear passed through tense and empty roads of Srinagar as police and paramilitary forces dotted the streets.
The recent demonstrations are the biggest since 2008 when violent protests killed over 40 people. For the first time in years the Army has been called in to quell protests in Srinagar.
“In order to save human lives we had to request the Army’s help,” senior state minister Ali Mohammed Sagar said. “The move is aimed at controlling the situation.”
Indian police and paramilitary forces, who have been struggling to control the wave of protests in the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley, have been accused of killing 15 civilians in less than a month. Each death has sparked a new cycle of violence despite appeals for calm from the state’s Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.
Pillai arrived in Srinagar along with Director General of Military Operations Lieutenant General A M Verma and held meetings with state police chief and head of Indian Army in the Kashmir valley, a police source said.
Police said Srinagar and six other towns were under strict curfew. In rural areas where the curfew was not in force, defiant protesters returned to the streets and were involved in fresh clashes with security personnel. The insurgency against New Delhi’s rule over Kashmir has claimed tens of thousands of lives, though the recent unrest is the worst in two years.
Two Indian guards were killed in Kashmir over the last two days in exchanges of fire across the border with Pakistan, officials said on Wednesday.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 8th, 2010.
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