The Indian Army is set to deploy its troops for patrolling and staging flag marches in the Jammu & Kashmir valley to quell the unrest that has killed 60 civilians and imposed a curfew for over 32 days and swiftly bring the Valley back to normalcy.
Army sources confirmed to dna that a decision has been finalised. “Army will be deployed on major highways and at sensitive points and an elaborate plan is being worked out at the headquarters level (in Delhi),” said an official who did not wish to be identified.
The Army has already moved in to secure crucial roads near Sopore and Narabal to protect the strategic Srinagar-Baramullah-Kupwara highway in north Kashmir. The move to deploy the Army is being considered in view of the growing apprehensions of militant attacks or violent protests by locals close to Independence Day — observed as ‘black day’ in Kashmir– and the end of Amarnath yatra next week.
The Army deployment move was apparently conveyed to chief minister Mehbooba Mufti on Monday when she met central leaders, including home minister Rajnath Singh.
Sources close to her told dna that she has pleaded for exploring political options rather that military use. Such is the disconnect that while elements in her government, just a few days ago, were upbeat that separatists had relaxed strike after 6 pm in north Kashmir, claiming it a result of behind-the-scene efforts, security agencies ordered night curfew, stripping this initiative. Over past few days, besieged people used to move after 6 pm and even coaching institutes to teach students had reset their timings. Those behind the idea were of the opinion that, over the last few days, a gradual relaxation would have brought the situation under control in north Kashmir, which didn’t saw many deaths like south Kashmir.
This is the second time in five years that the Army is being called in to assist security forces. The strategy of bringing in the Army– primarily engaged in counter-insurgency operations and guarding sections of the Line of Control with Pakistan– for restoring order was taken by the Omar Abdullah government in 2010 when the Valley erupted into a three-month long cycle of violence as 116 youths were shot dead by security forces. While flag marches were carried out in Srinagar and Baramullah, General V K Singh, then Army Chief, refused state government request for a bigger role on deploying army in civilian areas and to enter into Sopore, the hotbed of unrest in 2010 following protests over fake encounter in Macchil.
The decision to bring in the Army was considered last week in a meeting held on August 5 at the 15 Corps headquarters in Badami Bagh, Srinagar shortly after the top brass of Army visited CM Mufti assuring “all possible assistance to bring peace at the earliest.’’ A meeting was held at the , on August 5 where discussions were held on the options before the Army, Rashtriya Rifles, CRPF (deployed in Srinagar), J&K police and the
A major deterrent in bringing in the Army is the rules of engagement. The Army’s Victor Force in Awantipora (south Kashmir) and Kilo Force in Kupwara (north Kashmir) have been working out a coordination plan to disallow mob and protester -mobilisation efforts by protestors.
“The Army has been tasked to take over what is called in security parlance Highway Domination and Corridor Protection,” a source added.
Sections favuoring Army deployment argue that strict enforcement of curfew will bring down violent clashes and minimise casualties that can set fatigue among protesters, like in the previous cycle of violence.
A senior CRPF official, on condition of anonymity, said the presence of Army will help in resuming day-time traffic on the national highway and restoring connectivity. “Stone- pelters and protesters are a major concern. For now, we are forced to carry vehicle movement only at night, that includes escorting Amarnath yatris,’’ he said.