Chidambaram Steps Out To Interact With Kashmiris, Tourists21 June 2011
Srinagar: Home Minister P. Chidambaram Tuesday stepped out of protocol to interact with locals and tourists as he flew into Pahalgam in Jammu and Kashmir. Taking many by surprise, Chidambaram walked up to a bus stand in the southern town and began an impromptu interaction with people and tourists there. Finding one of the most high profile politicians among them, many requested an obliging home minister to pose for photographs with them. The minister enquired from them their perceptions of the law and order situation in the Kashmir Valley - this year. Chidambaram is spending the night at a state owned hut in Pahalgam known as ‘Bobby’ - after the Raj Kapoor blockbuster featuring Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia. A famous song of the movie was shot inside the hut. Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah hosted a dinner for the home minister in Pahalgam. Earlier, after his arrival at Pahalgam, Chidambaram took a review meeting of the law and order situation, particularly the arrangements made for the Amarnath Yatra beginning June 29. Pahalgam is the south Kashmir base camp for the annual pilgrimage to the Himalayan cave shrine. The minister started his busy schedule in the summer capital Srinagar today by chairing the meeting of the state’s security grid known as the unified headquarters at the Sher-e-Kashmir Convention Centre (SKICC) by the banks of the Dal Lake. Besides the chief minister, Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand, senior officers of the civil and police administration, paramilitary forces, the army, and intelligence agencies attended the meeting. ‘The situation in the state was discussed,’ an official statement said. Chidambaram congratulated the chief minister for the smooth and peaceful conduct of the Panchayat elections in the state, the statement said. He is expected to carry out an aerial survey of the mountainous route of the Amarnath pilgrimage Wednesday before he flies to the Gurez sector of the Line of Control where the Border Security Force (BSF) has arranged a small function for Chidambaram. Significantly, contrary to earlier times, no separatist leader issued a shutdown call on the minister’s arrival in the Kashmir Valley. Educational institutions, shops, businesses, banks and post offices were open. Both public and private transport plied normally in Srinagar as well as other parts of the valley. On Monday, after reaching the Srinagar airport, the home minister drove the over 20-km distance to the Raj Bhavan in the high security Chashmashahi area of the city. The minister’s cavalcade moved through busy markets amid normal traffic as against previous years when every VVIP who landed in Srinagar would board a helicopter to reach the Raj Bhavan. Although elaborate security arrangements were made, extra care was taken to ensure that the common man was not hit because of the VVIP visit. This is a far cry from the days when security forces erected road barricades and placed restrictions on civilian movements during the VVIP visits to the Kashmir Valley.