SRI NAGAR: The fortified security pickets are back in Srinagar. Once a common feature during the strife-torn 1990s, these pickets were pulled down after normalcy returned to the Kashmir Valley. But with the rise in militant violence and recruitment, they are making a comeback in the summer capital and even on highways.
One such security picket is near Jehangir Chowk, one of the busiest squares in Srinagar close to the Civil Secretariat, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court and the office of the Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir.
There are also pickets in Shaheed Gunj near the heavily guarded Old Secretariat complex, Khayam Chowk, Barbar Shah Bridge, Habba Kadal, Ram Munshi Bagh Sonawar and Rainawari in Srinagar. They have also come up at Athwajan, Pantha Chowk bypass and Lasjan Bridge, which are entry points to Srinagar for travellers from south Kashmir.
The securitymen manning the picket at Athwajan maintain a register to record the names and phone numbers of vehicle owners and the vehicle numbers. They also take photographs and videos of vehicles and passengers entering the city.“I initially refused to share my mobile number with the security personnel at the bunker. However, they told me it is necessary as they have orders from higher authorities to collect details, including the name and mobile number of vehicle owners,” said Riyaz Ahmad, a government employee, who commutes daily on the route to reach his work place.
IG CRPF Ravideep Sahi said these were not bunkers but temporary checkpoints that had been set up for safety and security of the people and to prevent the movement of militants.“We are randomly taking pictures and recording who is going through the area. We want to have some kind of information about the permanent residents of the specific place,” he said. “We will review the security scenario after a few months and if we feel the situation has improved, we will remove the checkpoints.”
In the 1990s, at the height of militancy, Srinagar was dotted with more than 200 pickets and bunkers man ned by paramilitary personnel. “In the past... we used to avoid travelling through those areas because of the fear that militants may attack these bunkers and we may get caught in the crossfire. The same fear has again gripped the people,” said Javed Ahmad, a teacher.