NEW DELHI / SRINAGAR: In a major crackdown on separatists ahead of hearing on Article 35A in Supreme Court, Jammu and Kashmir government arrested about 150 people including JKLF chairman and head and activists of politico-religious organisation Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) while Home Ministry has rushed about 12,000 BSF and ITBP personnel to the militancy-hit Valley to maintain law and order.
An ‘urgent’ home ministry communication issued late on Friday to the state authorities mentioned 100 companies of central forces would be deployed in the state.
These included 45 companies of CRPF, 35 companies of BSF, 10 companies each of SSB and ITBP. One company has about 120 personnel.
While sources in security agencies said the additional deployment is due to the ‘volatile’ situation in the valley, MHA officials said the troops movement was related to pre-election induction.
Police detained JKLF chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik from his Maisuma residence in Srinagar on Friday evening. He was lodged in a local police station.
Police also launched crackdown on Jamaat-e-Islami and conducted nocturnal raids on the residences of Jamaat leaders and activists across the Valley."About 150 party activists and leaders including Jamaat chief Dr Abdul Hamid Fayaz, party spokesman Advocate Zahid Ali were arrested by police," a Jamaat spokesman said.
He said police did not give any reason for the arrests.The Jamaat spokesman, however, linked arrests with hearing in Supreme Court on Article 35A, which grants special privileges to J&K residents.
After the arrests and speculation that Article 35A may be tinkered with, the tension prevailed in Srinagar and other parts of the Valley. The markets in city centre Lal Chowk, some areas of downtown and parts of north and south Kashmir remained closed.
There were also few incidents of stone pelting in the Valley, which were tackled by security men. Amid the fluid situation in Valley, Home Ministry decided to rush 100 companies of ITBP and BSF to Valley to maintain law and order.
Sources said some of the companies of BSF and ITBP have reached Valley. "The BSF and ITBP men are being deployed for static guard duty.
"The additional 10000-12000 paramilitary personnel would assist J&K police, CRPF and army in maintaining law and order in the Valley. It is after 15 years that BSF has been deployed for law and order duty in the Valley. They were leading anti-militancy operations in 1990s and replaced by CRPF in 2004.
The deployment of 100 additional companies of BSF and ITBP in Valley is taking place a week after the February 14 suicide bombing by Jaish on CRPF bus at Lethpora, Pulwama in which 40 CRPF jawans were killed. Sources said top police, civil, security and intelligence officials have been holding security review meetings since yesterday.
"One of the meeting, which started yesterday evening, continued till late evening. The officials again met in the day today to chalk out security strategy," they said.
Senior police official said the crackdown on separatists and deployment of more troops in the Valley is linked to the forthcoming elections.IG CRPF Ravideep Singh Sahi told newspaper that deployment of more forces is because of forthcoming elections.
"It is only for election purpose and nothing else," he said adding the BSF and ITBP men are being airlifted to Valley due to blockade of Srinagar-Jammu national highway. Sahi said some more paramilitary companies may be sent to the Valley if need is felt.
However, the common man is not ready to buy the police version. People are seeing it as sign that "something big is going to happen in Kashmir".
There are speculations that Article 35A may be tinkered with as Supreme Court is set to hear the petitions challenging the validity of the law anytime next week. Adding to the uncertainty are government orders, one of which has directed the government food stores to ensure complete sale of food grains by the evening.
In another order Director Health Services Kashmir directed all Chief Medical Officers to collect supplies of drugs, medicines, surgical disposals items and other allied items by tomorrow positively.
People in Srinagar and other parts of the Valley are stocking essential commodities including rice, oil, vegetables, pulses and medicines.
Meanwhile, separatist leaders have condemned the police crackdown. "Deployment of additional 12000 paramilitary forces on urgent basis indicates that something is cooking on Article 35A," they said. They have called for Kashmir-wide shutdown on Sunday to protest police crackdown and any tampering with Article 35A