Tense Kashmir Scrambles For Supplies, Information

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SRINAGAR — The combination of an overnight crackdown on resistance leaders and Jama’at-e-Islami, deployment of 10,000 additional troops, sound of frequent flying of fighter jets last night and panic-inducing government orders asking people to stock up on rations caused tension in Kashmir.

The government of India had rushed in 100 additional companies of paramilitary forces, roughly 10,000 troops, to the Valley on an ‘urgent’ basis, and simultaneously started a crackdown on resistance leaders, beginning with the arrest of JKLF chief Yasin Malik in a late night raid.

“We have to urgently deploy CAPFs in Jammu & Kashmir. It is requested to provide 100 coys of CAPFs (CRPF – 45,BSF-35,SSB-10 & ITBP 10) to Govt of J&K with immediate effect and till further orders. IG (ops), CRPF is requested to ensure immediate movement of forces in coordination with IG (ops) of all forces,” read a Home Ministry letter to the state government, copies of which have been also sent to IG(Ops) to CRPF, BSF, ITBP and SSB.

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Over 150 people, mainly from the Jamaat-e-Islami Jammu and Kashmir, including its chief Abdul Hamid Fayaz, were arrested on Saturday, leading to violent protests.

In a statement, a JeI spokesman said the police and other forces launched a “mass arrest drive” during the intervening night of February 22 and 23 and arrested dozens of its central and district-level leaders.

Those detained include Ameer Jama’at Dr Abdul Hamid Fayaz, Advocate Zahid Ali (Spokesperson) and entire top brass.

Heightened tension was palpable and people were seen in groups on streets even as security was tightened. Orders issued by some government departments added to the fears of the people. Long queues were seen outside petrol stations and people were thronging provision shops and buying essential supplies.

The Government Medical College in Srinagar cancelled winter vacation of its faculty members and directed them to positively report for work on Monday.

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Directorate of Health Service issued a letter “impressing upon all the Chief Medical Officers to collect the available supplies of drugs, medicine, surgical disposal item, dressing and other allied items (As per essential drugs list.”

The letter addressed to the health officials, also mentioned the name of hospitals including, “District Hospitals from the JKMSCL Regional Drug Ware, GMC Bemina, Srinagar,” and added that it should be done by “just tomorrow”. On the ending note of “Matter most urgent.”

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.

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IAS officer Shah Faesal, who quit bureaucracy last month to join politics, summed up the feeling of panic in a tweet as he implored the government to give clarity on why these orders have been issued.

“Prime Minister @narendramodi, we haven’t slept last night and we don’t know whether we are going to wake up alive tomorrow. People are avoiding movement and hoarding essential items; it is a doomsday feeling. Can someone tell us what’s happening here? Kashmir wants peace,” he wrote.

Former chief minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah, in a tweet, also said that government orders were creating tension. He said that people have started hoarding food and fuel.

“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. The administration needs to take steps to reduce this sense of panic. Let’s hope someone in the government is listening,” he said.

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“People are wound tight with worry and the speculation on some TV news channels is contributing to this as well,” he added.

The Jammu and Kashmir Socio-Economic Coordination Committee (JKSECC), an amalgam of 27 trade, industry, tourism, transport, horticulture and other civil society formations, also urged the Modi government to “refrain from any misadventure in Kashmir that may further vitiate the already volatile situation beyond control.”

“The members discussed regretted that the government instead of instilling faith and confidence in people was indulging in acts that cause disquiet and horror in them,” said JKSECC in a statement.

On Friday night, choppers were also reported to be hovering over Kashmir Valley. The sound of frequent flying of fighter jets till 1.30 am added to the worries of the residents due to simmering Indo-Pak tension following the Pulwama suicide car bomb attack. However, IAF officials described it as a routine exercise.

While no official reason has been given for the additional deployment, police sources say it 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.

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