March 2003 News

Army, Ultras Fight It Out On Posters In The Valley

11 March 2003
The Indian Express

Baramulla: In the violence-torn valley, the Army is taking on militants with a new weapon - posters. But as usual, it is the populace that has been caught in the crossfire. The Rashtriya Rifles, heading the counter- insurgency operations in the town, has put up 'wanted' posters, promising to literally weigh in money the person whose information would lead to arrest of militants. Not to be outsmarted, militants pinned up their posters asking the townfolk to stay away from Army posts and vehicles warning suicide squads were out to attack Army targets. Posters with fading pictures of militants have appeared on the shops, houses and outside mosques, seeking information that would lead to arrests. The people in the town though don't seem to be enthused by the prospect of the bounty as they fear retribution from both sides. 'The Army put up a poster in my shop. They threatened me that if it was torn or not seen here, I would have to bear the consequences. Now, if I don't tear it then I would have to face the music from the other side,' lamented a grocer. The 46 RR responsible for counter-insurgency operations didn't deny it has put up posters in the town. However, their version is they had told shopkeepers only to take care of the posters. 'We didn't threaten them with harsh consequences if the posters are tampered with but have asked them to take care of them. We have pasted them on shops and outside mosques so the people can read it. But if they want to tear it let them do so,' said an RR spokesman. But the freedom of democracy is not what residents of Kanli Bagh, a posh suburb in the uptown Baramulla, are enjoying these days. An Army poster put up outside the local mosque was found torn two days after it had appeared. And residents said jawans came down seeking explanations about the missing poster. 'Somebody removed the poster from there. The army men wanted to know the identity of the person who removed it. We had no clue but they would not listen. We don't know what lies ahead for us. It's so depressing and frightening to live in these times.' said Owais Qayoom, an engineering student who lives in the neighbourhood.


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