September 2005 News

BSF to be pulled out of Srinagar

10 September 2005
The Hindu
Praveen Swami

Srinagar: Border Security Force (BSF) troops deployed in Srinagar have received orders to withdraw from counter- terrorist operations in the city. Starting Sunday, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), in coordination with the Jammu and Kashmir Police, will be solely responsible for the security of the State capital. Coming days after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's meeting with the All-Parties Hurriyat Conference leadership, where the secessionist formation called for the phased reduction of counter- terrorism formations in the State, the decision appears to be aimed at consolidating the dialogue process. 15-year commitment Although the BSF will continue to operate along the Line of Control, as well as in some rural pockets, the withdrawal will bring to an end its 15- year commitment in Srinagar. New Delhi handed over urban counter- terrorist operations to the CRPF in 2003, and BSF troops were withdrawn from urban areas north of the Jhelum river. However, the withdrawal plan got bogged down last year amid concerns about the CRPF's ability to deal with the challenge before it. BSF troops were sent to Srinagar in 1990 after the State police and the CRPF failed to contain violence. Although the BSF took time to adapt to its new task, the force soon gained a formidable reputation. Since 1990, the BSF has eliminated 2,653 terrorists, among them the architect of the 2001 attack on Parliament House, Shahbaz Khan. It secured some 9,375 arrests, including that of Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Maulana Masood Azhar. Some 697 BSF jawans have meanwhile been killed here. Concerns While Srinagar residents are likely to greet the withdrawal of the BSF as a sign of normalisation, some officials have expressed concern. 'In the last ten months,' a senior Srinagar-based police officer said, 'the CRPF has not carried out a single offensive counter-terrorist operation in Srinagar.' Critics allege that the failure of the CRPF to contain an attack on the Tourist Reception Centre in April indicated its weaknesses. CRPF officials say all forces operating in Jammu and Kashmir have had their share of failures. Some shortcomings in the CRPF's resources are, however, evident. Compared with the communications intelligence infrastructure of the BSF, which enable it to track terrorist communications, the CRPF's technical capabilities are rudimentary. Nor does the CRPF have a chain of informers and moles, in contrast to the networks run by the BSF's 'G' Branch.


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