New bunkers, mock sorties, troop movement in J&K are pre-poll exercises, claim officials

Asking people not to give credence to rumours, officials on Sunday reiterated in Jammu and Kashmir that routine exercises were being mistaken as war preparedness

PTI Photo
PTI Photo

Ashutosh Sharma

Jammu and Kashmir administration on Sunday dispelled ‘rumours’ of an impending military action. The mock sorties flown by the Air Force on Saturday evening, renewed construction of new bunkers and alerts across the Line of Control asking villagers to be prepared to evacuate at short notice, are apparently all part of a ‘pre-poll’ exercise. A team from the Election Commission, officials informed the media helpfully, is to visit Srinagar shortly.

The rumours and the panic however persist even after Deputy Commissioner, Rajouri Ajaz Asad, told villagers in Nowshera on Saturday that the Government would not be responsible for the lives and property of those who fail to leave at short notice. Schools have been directed to complete preparations with electricity and toilets to function as temporary camps.

The DC, however, has dismissed the rumours that residents of 27 villages along the LoC have been ordered to evict the area. On Twitter, he said that he visited the area to monitor the ongoing construction of border bunkers.

Talks of an impending war were fuelled by the Government rushing 100 additional companies of paramilitary forces comprising about 10,000 security personnel to the Kashmir Valley. 45 of the companies belong to the Central Reseserve Police Force (CRPF), 35 from Border Security Force (BSF) and 10 each of Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) and Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP). A paramilitary company has a sanctioned strength of 135 personnel.

BSF is returning to guard 16 “sensitive places” in Srinagar city for the first time after 2005 when it was replaced by the CRPF.

Amid rumour mongering and speculations, National Conference president Dr Farooq Abdullah spoke to Home Minister Rajnath Singh last night and informed the Home Minister about panic buying in markets and how petrol pumps were running dry.

Former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti also took to Twitter, saying that “Nobody has a clue about what is to come but an ominous feeling of impending doom hangs in the air.”

The civil administration in Kashmir is struggling with plethora of complaints over hoarding as the National Highway remains closed due to bad weather. Deputy Commissioner Srinagar, Shahid Iqbal Choudhary, has asked residents to contact helpline numbers.

Former IAS officer, Shah Faesal addressed a tweet to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying that: “We haven’t slept last night and we don’t know whether we are going to wake up alive tomorrow. People are avoiding movement & hoarding essential items; it is a doomsday feeling. Can someone tell us what’s happening here? Kashmir wants peace.”

Meanwhile, Kashmir Valley observed a shut down against mass arrests and legal challenge to Article 35 A, which provides special rights and privileges to natives of Jammu and Kashmir. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the matter on Monday.

Principal Secretary, Planning, Development and Monitoring, Rohit Kansal, who held a press conference in Jammu on Sunday evening, asked people not to give credence to rumours.

However, he parried queries about the well-being of separatist leader Shabir Shah, who is lodged in Tihar jail. Dr. Bilquees Shah, wife of incarcerated Jammu Kashmir Democratic Freedom Party (JKDF) chairman has accused jail authorities of not allowing her to meet Shah. She apprehended that “something has happened to him inside the jail.”

US president Donald J Trump’s statement has also given currency to the speculations about the possible war: “India is looking at something very strong. India just lost almost 50 people. A lot of people are talking. But it’s a very, very delicate balance going on. Right now there’s a lot of problem between India & Pakistan because of what just happened in Kashmir. It’s very dangerous.”

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