Centre, State to jointly devise strategy to tackle stone pelting

Excelsior Correspondent
JAMMU, May 8: Taking serious note of increase in stone pelting incidents across Kashmir including targeting of tourists and security forces engaged in search operations, the Union Home Ministry today reviewed “developing situation” in the Valley at a high-level meeting.
Sources told the Excelsior that Union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba chaired high-level meeting of the MHA officials in North Block this afternoon, which was also attended by Centre Government’s Special Representative on Jammu and Kashmir, Dineshwar Sharma and top MHA officials including Incharge Jammu and Kashmir desk.
The Home Secretary was given detailed briefing on the Kashmir situation by the MHA officials especially after the killing of 22-year old Chennai tourist R Thirumani in stone pelting at Narbal on Srinagar-Gulmarg road yesterday and increased incidents of stone pelting on security forces during the gun-battle with militants, the latest one at Shopian in which five civilians were killed in retaliatory action when they were pelting stones on the troops engaged in the operation. Five militants including Saddam Padder and a Kashmir University Professor were killed in the gun-battle.
“The Union Home Ministry in consultations with the State Government can take some steps to contain stone pelting incidents,” sources said, adding the MHA was reportedly of the view that increase in stone pelting incidents could badly hit the tourist season of Kashmir. Though there was no flow of tourists in the Valley presently, the Government was expecting that if situation remained normal, the tourists could again turn towards Kashmir.
Further, they said, annual Shri Amarnath Ji pilgrimage is also due to start on June 28 and the Government wants to take all possible measures well in advance to ensure that the Yatri vehicles don’t come under stone pelting and are protected fully from the militants including South Kashmir.
According to sources, the high-level security review meeting discussed protection of tourists in the Valley was reportedly of the view that para-military personnel could be deployed at all famous tourist spots, which are thronged by the visitors from across the country and even abroad. Securing routes leading to the tourist spots was also discussed, they said.
Asserting that the top brass of MHA was in regular touch with civil, police and para-military officials in Jammu and Kashmir, sources said the Centre and State Governments were working on joint strategy to deal with the emerging situation and ensure that peace wasn’t disturbed in the Valley.
“The MHA was of the view that stone pelting incidents need to be tackled as injuries to more tourists could lead to more problems as tourists belonged to different parts of the State. And this has to be done well in advance as 60-day long Shri Amarnath Ji pilgrimage is also not far away as it was due to start on 28th of next month and will continue till August 26,” sources pointed out.
Various other aspects of the situation were also discussed in the meeting, they said, adding that in the next couple of days, the MHA could hold another high-level review of security situation of Jammu and Kashmir.
Dineshwar Sharma, Centre Government’s Special Representative on Jammu and Kashmir, who had frequently been visiting Jammu and Kashmir was understood to have given some suggestions in controlling stone pelting incidents in the Valley.
Meanwhile, Union Home Secretary later briefed Home Minister Rajnath Singh on the situation in the Kashmir valley and steps required to maintain peace and normalcy, which was being disturbed by the stone pelters.
The Centre Government, according to sources, was deeply concerned about the Kashmir situation not only the pelting of stones on tourist vehicles but also targeting security forces by the people during encounters with a view to ensure escape of the militants in which the civilians were getting killed.
The Centre, they said, could devise a strategy in consultations with the State Government in taking effective steps to prevent loss of civilian lives as well as ensure smooth operations against the militants and movement of tourists.
Meanwhile, Union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba today reviewed the progress in development of various sports infrastructure in Jammu and Kashmir, which has been witnessing series of violence in recent past, officials said.
Gauba took stock of the progress in augmenting sports infrastructure in the State, for which the Central Government had allocated several hundred crore rupees under the Prime Minister’s Rs 80,000 crore development package for Jammu and Kashmir announced in November 2015, a Home Ministry official said.
Under the package, Rs 2,600 crore has been earmarked for human resource development, skill development and sports.
Centre’s special representative for Kashmir talks Dineshwar Sharma, senior officials of the Ministries of Home, Sports and State Government attended the meeting.
Sharma is believed to have suggested that the Kashmiri youths continue to remain alienated and they can be encouraged to pursue their dreams through sports.
Another official said there are many Kashmiri youths who want to build their career through sports and they should be encouraged by providing proper sports infrastructure in the State.
“All Kashmiri youngsters are not just taking up arms and stones,” the official said.