Srinagar: The government forces carried out a ‘surprise’ crackdown in the commercial area of Srinagar’s Amira Kadal, bringing movement to a standstill on Monday evening (February 22) in what seemed to be part of renewed security measures to be taken in the region.
Scores were reportedly lined up for on-spot frisking as school and shopping bags were searched by the police and CRPF personnel, days after the Inspector General of Police in Kashmir Vijay Kumar said measures that include surprise checkposts and limited Cordon and Search Operations (CASO) in crowded places will be carried out.
The decision was taken at a security review meeting chaired by IGP Kumar that was attended by senior police and CRPF officers a day after militants carried out a dramatic attack in Barzulla area of Srinagar in which two policemen were killed.
Another policeman was also killed on February 19 ahead of the Barzulla attack during a gunfight in Budgam, where militants – which included a foreign recruit – managed to flee from the spot after the exchange of gunfire.
IGP Kumar, according to a local news agency, added that the security grid will put cut-off points on exit routes and use drones to check the movement of ‘elements’, they considered, are “inimical to peace.”
The renewed security measures also come ahead of the onset of spring season in Kashmir, which has in the past years witnessed a peak in militant violence – sometimes referred to as ‘spring offensive’ – after months of relative lull due to winter.
The Monday crackdown, the eye-witnesses said, was reminiscent of the 1990s era that brought back memories of similar hours-long cordon and frisking by the armed forces.
“It felt like the nineties (1990s)...I saw everyone being lined up, asked for identity cards and let-off one by one only, irrespective of age. I hope we don’t relive that experience once again,” a Srinagar resident Mehraj told NewsClick.
Those younger than Mehraj termed it purely as an “inconvenience” and “waste of time” as traffic was diverted from other routes.
“My college has just started and I lost more than an hour in this check-up and no one even told us what this is all about. Standing in a line like that without a reason is waste of time and energy,” a student said.
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The pictures from the crackdown were also circulated on social media networks where the measure drew flak from local residents. Many from rural Kashmir expressed dismay at the incident and claimed it had become a routine for people in their respective villages.
Another part of the renewed security strategy will also include confiscating smartphones from residents during such search operations or near checkposts, an assertion made by General Officer Commanding (GOC) Victor Force Major General Rashim Bali during an event on Sunday.
“Today, there are a lot of applications on phones used to harm the brotherhood among us … we want to see if I can find any proof that I can foil their attempts,” the army official said. The official, however, added during the interaction -- a video of which was widely circulated later -- that the confiscation can extend only upto 20 minutes and not more than that.
The Barzulla attack, believed to be carried out by outfit The Resistance Front (TRF), has also brought into focus the traditional Kashmiri winter-garment – pheran. A Hindu right-wing organisation in Jammu, Rashtriya Bajrang Dal had earlier called for a ban on the dress worn by Kashmiris. The Bajrang Dal activists alleged that pheran was being ‘misused’ by the militants to carry out attacks on forces, a claim that was also prevalent in the 1990s.
There are apprehensions within the security grid of a possible flare-up of violence in the coming months of summer. While some believe it is a standard as snow begins to melt along the Line of Control (LoC), others claim there are indications like new militant outfits and foreign recruits taking root in the region after militancy faced intense assault throughout last year.
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