Srinagar, Feb 24: The mysterious orders by the government followed by “urgent deployment” of 100 forces’ companies, has spooked the entire Kashmir even as government described the uncanny events as “routine” exercise.
On the orders of the Union Home Ministry, 100 companies of forces, comprising 45 companies of CRPF, 35 BSF, 10 SSB, and 10 ITBP, were airlifted to Kashmir between Friday and Saturday.
During the same time, the authorities also launched a massive crackdown on Hurriyat and Jamaat-e-Islami leaders detaining around 150 of them.
On Saturday, the state government sparked a mass frenzy after two of its key departments issued a few orders hinting that everything wasn’t in place.
The Directorate of Health Services Kashmir issued a circular directing all chief medical officers, medical superintendents and block medical officers not to leave their stations without seeking permission from higher authorities.
The health department also cancelled the leaves of the doctors “without permission” while the administrators were ordered to “gear up their Rapid Response Teams so that any eventuality can be tackled”.
It has also issued a letter stating that “in view of prevailing situations, it is impressed upon all the Chief Medical Officers to collect the available supplies of drugs, medicine, surgical disposal items, and other allied items”.
In another letter issued by the Department of Food, Civil Supplies, and Consumer Affairs (Srinagar), the TSOs of Srinagar were directed to ensure complete sale of food grains.
“All the sale centers shops of Srinagar south shall remain open tomorrow (Sunday) for sale of food grain in the interest of general public,” it said.
The order, however, was cancelled a few hours later.
Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Baseer Khan’s directive for rationing of petrol and diesel sent the car and other vehicle owners into a mass, fuel buying frenzy even as residents across the Valley thronged markets to stock up essentials in case of any eventuality.
By the time the state administration stepped in to address the fears of commoners and the state’s Governor Satya Pal Malik appealed for calm after hours, the situation had already gotten out of control.
Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Baseer Ahmad Khan called issuing of these orders a “routine exercise”.
“These were routine orders and were not leaked. These routine orders have been presented in a wrong way,” he said.
“The Jammu-Srinagar National High was closed and there is shortage of essentials. Based on that, these orders were issued,” he added.
Khan said the health department orders were also a routine exercise. “These orders are always being issued,” he said.
He asked people not to panic.
Governor Satya Pal Malik said that gradual induction of additional central forces was “for election purposes”.
“After the Pulwama incident, the security concerns in this regard are much higher with the possibility of terrorist organisations increasing their activities against candidates and voters on a much larger scale. In this context, a much larger number of additional police forces are needed for conducting general elections,” he said in official statement.
The Governor appealed to the people not to believe in rumours of any extreme nature which are circulating widely in some quarters and to remain calm.
“However, as a precautionary measure, the Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir has rationed petrol and diesel supply, so as to conserve whatever is available for emergency purposes. Steps are being taken to increase the availability of stocks in the Kashmir Valley,” he added.
IG CRPF operations, Zulfikar Hassan, too said that additional deployment was called in for “election process”.
“They have been kept reserve,” he said.
Asked there were rumours that forces would launch a massive “crackdown” in south Kashmir, he claimed he did receive any such reports.