Closely watching JK situation, forces asked to avoid civilian casualties: MHA
Srinagar, Apr 14: The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has asked the security agencies in Jammu and Kashmir to ensure that no harm whatsoever is done to the common masses while carrying out ‘anti-militancy operations’ in the state.
Top officials in the MHA on condition of anonymity said that all the security forces including the Army, the Central Armed Police Forces and the State police have been asked to avoid civilian killings and carry out anti-militancy operations without any collateral damage. “Centre and the State government want to ensure a peaceful summer, as tourism has taken a massive hit in the past two years,” the sources maintained.
However the official maintained that heads of various security agencies have been asked to “deal sternly” with militants. “We need to deal with the militants strictly but there should be no civilian causalities at the encounter sites. A close synergy between forces is a must for ensuring smooth anti-militancy operations,” the MHA quoting directions said.
Sources however said that the MHA has made it clear that the operation against militants will continue. “MHA is watching the situation very closely and the summer ahead is crucial for the State. Normalcy has to be restored in the Valley at all costs as people have suffered huge losses,” sources said.
Sources in the MHA said that the youth have been asked to stay away from encounter sites. “It is for the safety of the people that they should avoid their presence at encounter sites and people are also appealed not to create obstructions in anti-militancy operations,” sources quoting MHA said.
The situation in the Kashmir Valley has been fragile since July 8, 2016 when Hizbul commander Burhan Wani and two others were killed in an encounter with security forces.
Meanwhile one of the top officials of the Army said that they have already asked police to keep crowds off from encounter sites during gun battles with militants to avoid civilian casualties as they (Army) were not carrying mob control weapons. “Our job is not to deal with the crowd since we are not carrying non-lethal weapons. It is the police and para-military forces who are carrying weapons to disperse the mob,” an Army officer said, wishing not to be quoted by name.
“Since February 2016, the police had cautioned people many times through repeated advisories, asking them to stay away from the encounter sites. Despite that people have been rushing to encounter sites in a bid to help militants to escape,” one of the police officials said on condition of anonymity.
Police sources said the security agencies have been told to ensure better coordination during encounters. “Police have been told to ensure that people don’t come close to encounter sites. If protestors come closer to encounter sites then Army may fire at them like what happened in Kulgam,” a police official said.