Sources said the relaxation of restrictions in the Valley will completely depend on the situation on Independence Day.
Srinagar: Amid fears of a terror strike, the highest-ever security is in place in the Kashmir Valley as the nation looks forward to celebrating Independence Day on Thursday. Last-minute strategies are being finalised by the security forces whose primary concern is to thwart any fidyaeen or IED attack on the security forces.
As a precaution for the grand Independence Day event at the Sher-e-Kashmir Stadium to be attended by governor Satya Pal Malik and top officials, the security agencies issued passes to their own people to ensure terrorists don’t sneak in wearing Army or paramilitary fatigues.
While the presence of 200 terrorists in the Valley is a big concern, sources say among them are 16 top commanders of terror outfits like Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and Hizbul Mujahideen, who are experts in assembling Improvised Explosive Devices and might plant them on routes frequented by the security forces.
“We are on a high alert and hope August 15 will pass off peacefully. All arrangements are in place,” J&K DGP Dilbag Singh told this newspaper as he reviewed the security situation with Army, CRPF and BSF officials.
Sources said the relaxation of restrictions in the Valley will completely depend on the situation on Independence Day. “We will assess the situation depending on how it goes tomorrow. But we may not ease the restrictions entirely. In case a decision is taken to restore communications, we will first do it in peaceful areas, like Srinagar, and extend it to other areas in a phased manner. Similar will be the case with the movement of people. It will all be phase-wise,” sources said, adding there is still no clarity on how and when the restrictions should be relaxed. “The first priority is to ensure a peaceful August 15, and all other things will be decided later,” they said.
On Wednesday, Day 10 of the lockdown in the Valley, the situation in Srinagar remained calm but there were some reports of sporadic incidents elsewhere. Police officials are tightlipped over the situation in South Kashmir areas, where the security forces had expected trouble on Wednesday.
While there is speculation that home minister Amit Shah may visit Srinagar on Thursday and unfurl the tricolour at Lal Chowk, top officials said they had no information about the visit of any dignitary from New Delhi.
All energies were focused on ensuring a trouble-free Independence Day celebration at the Sher-e-Kashmir stadium, which has been turned into a fortress for the programme which begins in the morning and will be over by noon. While the political leadership in J&K remains under house arrest, a curfew-like situation is expected to prevail in the Valley on Thursday.
What dominated the series of meetings between the top brass of the Army and security forces were the strategies and mechanisms to thwart IEDs or a potential fidayeen attack. “Since communications are down, terror groups who normally use various Russian apps for chatting, like Telegram, are unable to communicate with each other. But there are 16 top commanders who are well versed in assembling IEDs. Fidayeen attacks are a concern and thus we have four layers of security at the stadium,” the sources said.
PTI adds: Additional DGP Munir Khan said the restrictions in Jammu had been completely lifted. “The restrictions imposed in Jammu have been completely removed and schools and other establishments there are functioning. Restrictions will continue in some places of Kashmir for some time,” he told reporters. He said there were some “localised incidents” in parts of Srinagar and other districts in the Valley, but these were contained and dealt with locally.
There have been no major injuries to anyone, he said at a press conference. Mr Khan said there were a few pellet injuries in the Valley that were treated. “Our biggest endeavour is to ensure there is no civilian casualty,” he said.
Asked about the number of people detained, Mr Khan said he would not talk about individuals. “In a law and order situation like this, there are different kinds of detention ... Preventive detention to ensure established miscreants do not vitiate the peaceful atmosphere... So you have to take preventive steps,” he said.