Deal with situation carefully, stick to SOP: CM to officials

Excelsior Correspondent
JAMMU, Apr 3: Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti today called upon top brass of police to deal carefully with the situation in Kashmir especially during anti-militancy operations and street protests to avert civilian killings and collateral damage, which could disturb peace and, in turn, hit the tourist season. She reiterated her call for strict implementation of Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) during search and cordon operations and dealing with the protests.
The directions were issued by her at a high-level meeting of civil, police and Health Department officials, which she chaired at her official residence in Srinagar this afternoon. The meeting lasted about two hours.
This was second security review taken by Mehbooba Mufti during last two days in the wake of 20 killings in South Kashmir on Sunday including 13 militants, three Army soldiers and four civilians besides injuries to nearly 100 other civilians.
Four top police officers, present at the meeting, including Director General of Police (DGP) Dr Shesh Pal Vaid, Additional DG CID AG Mir, IGP Kashmir Swayam Prakash Pani and DIG South Kashmir Amit Kumar gave detailed briefing to the Chief Minister on Sunday’s twin operations, presence of militants and other aspects of the situation.
Chief Secretary BB Vyas, Principal Secretary (Home) RK Goyal, Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, Baseer Khan, Director SKIMS Prof Javed Shah and other officials of the Health Department also attended the meeting and briefed the Chief Minister, who was in New Delhi on Saturday and Sunday to attend a programme of Kashmiri Pandits and had cancelled all engagements in Jammu to straightway fly to Srinagar from the Union capital.
Sources said the Chief Minister called upon the police officials to ensure that the police personnel at the site of encounters and protests handle the situation very carefully to avoid civilian casualties and collateral damage. She directed that all security agencies had to strictly adhere to the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) formulated for anti-militancy operations and dealing with street protests.
“The tourist season was very high on agenda of the Chief Minister,” sources pointed out and said she inquired about the situation in tourist spots of the Kashmir valley. She was briefed by the civil and police officials that even today there was good rush of tourists at Pahalgam and Gulmarg and there were large queues for Gondola rides.
“Arrival of the tourists has started picking up,” sources quoted the officials briefing the Chief Minister.
Already two summers of 2016 and 2017 didn’t receive much tourists especially after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen divisional commander Burhan Wani in South Kashmir in July 2016. The Government has been making all out efforts to ensure that there was good rush of tourists this summer in Jammu and Kashmir. Only few days back, the Government had convened convention of Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI) in Srinagar for two days.
Sources said the Chief Minister also inquired condition of the injured persons admitted in various hospitals from the Director SKIMS Prof Omar Javed Shah, Government Medical College (GMC) Srinagar, Principal Dr Saima Rashid and Director Health Services Kashmir Dr Saleem-ur-Rehman, who were also present at the meeting.
She directed the Health Department officials to provide all possible medical facilities to the injured and shift some of them outside, if required.
On her arrival at Srinagar yesterday afternoon, the Chief Minister had held high-level review of security situation with top officials.
She was given detailed briefing about the two gun battles which took place in Shopian district of South Kashmir yesterday where seven militants and a civilian were killed at Dragad village and at Kachdora where 5 militants, three civilians and three army personnel were killed and over 100 were injured in the clashes that took place at both the places.
The police officers reportedly told the Chief Minister that it was unprecedented situation in Kachdora where thousands of people assembled at the encounter site and pelted stones on the security forces who had engaged a group of militants in an encounter. She was told that there would have been more casualties if the operation would not have been called off.
However, sources said that the Chief Minister was disturbed with the killings and use of force to tackle the law and order problem.
She had directed the police officers that utmost care should be taken to avoid collateral damage in security forces operations against the militants and dealing with the law and order problems.
Not only the State Government but, according to sources, the Centre was also concerned over the situation in the Kashmir valley due to joining of militancy by local youth, presence of civilians at the encounter sites despite being repeatedly asked not to do so and some other factors. However, the Centre was reportedly satisfied with number of killings of the militants by security forces and thwarting of infiltration attempts by the troops along the LoC.