GULMARG: Gulmarg, Kashmir’s famous tourist destination, looks more like a battle zone these days. Instead of busloads of tourists descending on the skiing resort, there are military aircraft hovering in the skies and troops being deployed on the ground.
“There is a lot of tension in the air. There is a fear that war may break out between India and Pakistan,” said a 65-year-old nomad, Abdur Rashid, of Nagin I village. He said it was for the first time in last 30 years, especially after the eruption of militancy in Jammu and Kashmir, that the Gulmarg sector is witnessing tension.
In the past 20 days, the Army has conducted over 350 operations in Gulmarg sector amid reports that militants may have infiltrated into the Valley from the sector. Ghulam Qadir, the sarpanch of Nagin I village, which is just 10 km from the LoC, said troops conducted search operations in adjoining areas of the village and the nearby forest area. “The Army has intensified patrolling in Gulmarg after August 5. We see a lot of movement of soldiers,” he said.
The villagers said Army was also conducting aerial surveillance. “Army helicopters hover over the area even during the night,” Qadir said. Another villager, Mohammad Ismail Chechi, said if the shelling takes place at the LoC in Gurez sector, they would be forced to leave the place. Muhammad Ashraf of Nagin II village said, “We are spending sleepless nights amid fear that shelling can break out any time.”
The troops are regularly visiting empty hotels to check if anybody is putting up there. “They regularly visit hotels and seek information about visitors. They also click pictures and videos,” said an employee of a hotel. As a security measure, electricity connections to a local temple and church have been disconnected. The staff of some hotels said the army men directed them to carry lamps if they move out in the evening to ensure the troops know “you are our own people”. “We haven’t seen such fear in last 30 years,” he said.
350 operations launched in Gulmarg sector
The General Officer Commanding (GoC) of Army’s Srinagar-based 15 Corps, Lt Gen KJS Dhillon said two days ago that over 350 operations were launched in the Gulmarg sector. He had said while foiling an infiltration attempt in the Gulmarg sector on August 21, the Army had apprehended two Pakistani militants of the Lashkar-e-Taiba. The duo was identified as Khalil, 36, and Mohd Nazim, 20. However, an official of Gulmarg police station said they had not received any report from the Army on the arrest of two Pakistani militants.