Panic has gripped the Kashmir Valley after the government issued several notices, asking residents and officials to stock up on essential items, including ration, petrol, diesel, LPG and medicines, for some time. Meanwhile, the Border Security Force (BSF) and Indo-Tibetan Border Force (ITBF) have been ordered to replace the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) for static guard duties in Srinagar. The move came after the Union Home Ministry issued the deployment of 100 more companies of central armed forces in Jammu and Kashmir.
The order, issued by the zone police headquarters, states the move to give static duties to BSF and ITBP has been taken to strengthen the law and order grid in Kashmir region. According to the police, it is a practice to place new force as static guard outside as the new force is not well versed with law and order. Kashmir saw a similar situation in 1990 when the BSF had taken over the internal security.
The orders asked the people in the Valley to keep a good stock of their medical supplies as the uncertainty looms over Kashmir. The department of food, civil supplies and consumer affairs, which provides ration to people through its outlets, has directed its staff members in south Srinagar to ensure completing sale of food grains in their respective areas by Saturday evening. They were also directed to keep the ration depots and sale outlets open on Sunday as well.
In a statement, the divisional commissioner of Kashmir said fuel rationing was ordered due to shortage caused by the prolonged closure of the National Highway. On food rationing, the divisional commissioner said the department of food supplies and consumer affairs was asked to ensure proper distribution due to procedural requirements and said there was no need to panic.
The Kashmir divisional administration asked the general public not to pay heed to rumours suggesting other motives and sought their cooperation.
After the advisories, people are tense about the prevailing situation. A huge rush of people was seen outside grocery stores, petrol pumps and medical shops on Saturday evening.
Former chief minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah, in a tweet, said that the government orders were creating panic. “People in the valley, especially the cities and towns, are taking everything said or done as a sign that some big trouble is just around the corner. People are hoarding food & fuel,” he said.
“The administration needs to take steps to reduce this sense of panic. People are wound tight with worry and the speculation on some TV news channels is contributing to this as well. Let’s hope someone in the government is listening,” he added.
In a letter dated February 22, the government ordered deployment of forces with 'immediate effect' in addition to the number of forces already stationed in the state. The letter was addressed to the Jammu and Kashmir home secretary, the state Chief Secretary and the Director General of Jammu and Kashmir Police.
According to reports, paramilitary forces are being airlifted to Srinagar. Sources say, the extra number of paramilitary forces companies of BSF, CRPF and ITBP were sent for panchayat polls in the state and were to be called back after the commencement of the election, but now it has been decided not to call them off.
A company of paramilitary force comprises approximately 95-120 personnel, depending upon the type of force, size of company and location of deployment.
The step has been taken considering the tense situation across the state after last week's terror attack in Pulwama, in which over 40 CRPF jawans were killed. Pakistan-based banned Jaish-e-Mohammed released photographs and a video after the terror attack claiming full responsibility for it.
The development comes ahead of the Supreme Court hearing on Article 35A, which gives special powers to the state of Jammu and Kashmir, on Monday.
Earlier, separatist leader Yasin Malik was detained by the Jammu and Kashmir Police from his residence in Srinagar. He was shifted to the Kothibagh police station. The detention came a few days after the state administration said the security of 18 separatist leaders, including Malik, would be withdrawn. The JKLF leader on Thursday termed the announcement a "lie".