Centre Unhappy With ‘reluctant’ Omar Crowd Control Not Army Job: Delhi7 July 2010
The Telegraph (Kolkata)
New Delhi: The Centre is unhappy with Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah’s “reluctant” handling of the current outbreak of violence in the Valley and advised him emphatically to use a firm hand to quell it without involving the army. “The army is always there to provide symbolic assistance to civilian authority but this is essentially a policing job, the state government has not used forces at its command effectively enough,” a top official dealing with Kashmir affairs told The Telegraph today. The army was called out of barracks for show-of-strength flag marches yesterday at the request of the state government but the Centre is disinclined to deploy it in street action. Home ministry sources underlined that the army was “only meant to ensure curfew compliance” at the moment; their role, sources clarified was only “deterrence” and they would not be employed even for crowd control. “The essential task of restoring public order is of the state police and paramilitary,” sources said, “they will have to do the job.” That’s the burden of the message Union home secretary G.K. Pillai was asked to carry to Srinagar after a Kashmir-specific meeting of the cabinet committee on security (CCS) today. Pillai, who will meet Omar and his top security officials, is also likely to stress more co-ordinated action between the state police and the CRPF. The two have often worked at cross-purpose and blamed each other for lapses. “There is some security disarry and the state government appears to be in the grip of unnecessary panic, it needs to assert its authority in a determined way, it has enough resources at its command to do that,” the official said. He was quick to add, though, that New Delhi was not contemplating imposition of President’s rule, as speculation emerging from sections in Srinagar has suggested. “There is an elected government in Jammu and Kashmir and it is the best instrument to deal with the situation,” he said, “the Centre is ready to provide all assistance to the Abdullah government in this.” Multiple factors could be dictating the reluctance to use the army at this stage, and the security logistics of the ongoing Amarnath Yatra, involving lakhs of pilgrims, is probably the least among them. The centre believes that the situation just isn’t “alarming enough”, though it could head that way if a clampdown is not imposed quickly. Clearly, New Delhi is goading Omar into a hard counteroffensive against angry mobs that have confronted security forces in towns across the Valley over the last fortnight. A section of the security-intelligence complex here believes that Abdullah has been “soft-pedalling” the crisis to avoid adverse political consequences. “He has been saying he does not want boys killed, he wants no bloodshed. In a situation like this, hard options sometimes become inevitable, the moment a mob senses the government is weak, it will become more belligerent. There is a drift and an indecisiveness that is urging the crisis on,” an official argued. The new pressure from New Delhi might push Omar into a tighter corner than he already is in. Going hard after protestors might lead to more deaths and, consequently, more public anger. It is something his political rivals, especially Mehbooba Mufti of the PDP, will eagerly feed on. On the other hand, if he continued to weak kid-gloves, separatist and militant elements may well snatch the initiative and drive the Valley deeper into turmoil. Another section - and this has found some favour with the state government - feels that the upsurge is calibrated to peak around the time external affairs minister S.M. Krishna meets his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi in Islamabad. “Qureshi has been speaking pointedly of human rights violations in Kashmir of late and this simmer in the Valley will help him to shift the focus of talks from terror to Kashmir, at least that is their hope,” said one official, “there is definitely a Pakistani hand behind this, as the home minister has also said”. The logic of suggesting a “foreign hand” at the moment is that tempers will “cool down” after the July 15 Indo-Pak talks and, therefore, there is no need for a hard crackdown. But while the Centre recognises the “provocation from across the border”, it is in no mood to let anti-government forces, whether they are boys pelting stones or more hardline militant elements guiding them from behind, have the run of the Valley. “What is happening is a daily subversion of law and order and that is a threat to public security, it must be put down,” the sources said, “the analysis of who and why can come later”.