Troop influx, cutting short Yatra put Jammu and Kashmir on watch

Amarnath Yatra Security
Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) on Amarnath Yatra Security

New Delhi, Aug 2 (IANS) The abrupt curtailing of Amarnath Yatra on Friday and massive deployment of additional forces over the last few days has set off yet another round of speculation about the Modi government’s next move in Jammu and Kashmir.

The Jammu and Kashmir state Home Department’s order asking Amarnath Yatris and tourists to leave the Valley immediately and return home went viral leading to panic as around 1.75 lakh pilgrims had registered for undertaking the journey to the shrine in batches starting from June 28 till August 15.

The government cited inputs of a terror threat on the pilgrims and the overall security situation in the valley as the trigger for asking people to leave the state. In a parallel move, major security heads in the valley held a press conference directly accusing the Pakistan Army for terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir.

Kashmiri leaders were flummoxed by the latest move to cancel the Yatra which came amidst apprehension that the BJP government at the Centre was moving to remove the Constitution’s Article 35A that defines permanent resident of the state.

“What I don’t get is that the government has spent money flying in teams of journalists, foreign and Indian, to brief them about how good the situation is, about how well the yatra has been going and then this order is issued ordering yatris and tourists to leave immediately!” tweeted National Conference leader Omar Abdullah.

A number of related events added to speculation. Ministry of Home Affairs sources claimed that deployment of troops in a particular theatre was not a matter of public debate, while the security heads in the valley held a press conference and directly blamed the Pakistan Army for the problem of terrorism.

The Line of Control (LoC) witnessed heavy shelling just days ago after a long period of lull. The firing was so intense that Indian Deputy High Commissioner in Islamabad was summoned multiple times by the Pakistan Foreign Ministry.

Jammu and Kashmir has been the focus of the Modi government in its second term. Union Home Minister Amit Shah has already visited the state. He had announced in Parliament that the Constitution’s Article 370, which gives special status to the state, was a temporary provision.

Among the proposals on table is the re-organisation of state into four territories representing each region of the state with Ladakh, Kargil, Jammu and the Valley becoming separate entities. Any such move, however, will not come without an expected backlash.

Another aspect of troop mobilization is intelligence inputs of a Pulwama-like terror attack being planned by Pakistan. There are indications that the security establishment has pre-empted the strike and taken measures to safeguard the state from a possible flare-up.

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