Eight days after 40 CRPF jawans were killed in a terror attack in Pulwama, the Centre on Friday rushed in 100 additional companies of paramilitary forces to Kashmir on an ‘urgent’ basis.
The ministry of home affairs (MHA) has ordered for the additional deployment of 100 companies of paramilitary forces, which comprise 45 companies of CRPF, 35 from BSF and 10 each from SSB and ITBP.
The crackdown in the Valley continued on Friday, with raids being conducted on separatist leaders. JKLF chief Yasin Malik was arrested from his residence on Friday night, following which dozens of Jama’at-e-Islami (JeI) leaders, including its chief Abdul Hamid Fayaz, were held across the Valley.
Top police officials termed the raids as “preparations for the Lok Sabha elections”, even as former J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti criticised the action, saying one could imprison a person “but not his ideas”.
“In the past 24 hours, Hurriyat leaders & workers of Jamaat organisation have been arrested. Fail to understand such an arbitrary move which will only precipitate matters in J&K. Under what legal grounds are their arrests justified? You can imprison a person but not his ideas,” Mehbooba said.
Moderate Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, too, condemned JKLF chief Yasin Malik's detention and the crackdown on the Jamaat-e-Islami Jammu and Kashmir leadership, saying force and intimidation will only worsen the situation.
Confirming the arrests, the Jama’at said, “During the intervening night of February 22-23, police and other forces raided many houses in the Valley wherein dozens of our central and district level leaders were arrested.”
“Those detained include Ameer Jama’at Dr Abdul Hamid Fayaz, Advocate Zahid Ali (Spokesperson), Ghulam Qadir Lone (Former Secretary General), Abdur Rouf (Ameer Zila Islamabad), Mudasir Ahmad (Ameer Tehsil Pahalgam), Abdul Salam (Dialgam), Bakhtawar Ahmad (Dialgam), Mohammad Amin Wani (Tral), Bilal Ahmad (Chadoora), Ghulam Mohammad Dar (Chak Sangran) and dozens more,” added the spokesman.
Police sources, however, played down the arrests, saying the arrests were necessary for elections to be held peacefully. A senior police official told News18 on the condition of anonymity that those arrested were held earlier too.
Officials privy to the developments said it was the first major crackdown on the organisation that is part of the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, a separatist conglomerate. Jama’at is seen as the political wing of the Hizbul Mujahideen in the Valley and its cadres were picked up from across south Kashmir, including Anantnag, Pahalgham, Dialgam and Tral. On Friday night, choppers were also reported to be hovering over Kashmir Valley.
The arrests of separatist leaders come ahead of a crucial hearing on Article 35-A in the Supreme Court on Monday. The article, incorporated into the Indian Constitution in 1954, grants special rights and privileges to the residents of Jammu & Kashmir.
The Jama’at, while condemning the action against its cadre, also referred to Article 35-A and said ‘something is hatching behind the curtains’ amid rumours that the government was bringing in an ordinance on the matter.
The additional deployment of forces in the Valley, police sources say, is for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in the state and the request for the immediate movement has been made due to the closure of the Jammu-Srinagar Highway.
“The highway is closed and we can’t take chance. We cannot go for a war with 12,000 forces,” the police official responded when asked about rumours on India preparing for a war with Pakistan. “We don’t want sudden arrival of forces at the time of election. They need to get familiarised with the situation and will be put on training,” the police official added.
Meanwhile, a team of the Election Commission will visit Jammu & Kashmir on March 4 and 5 to review the security situation, officials said on Friday.
Since the February 14 attack in Pulwama, which the Jaish-e-Mohammad has claimed responsibility for, tensions have escalated between India and Pakistan.