Union Home Minister Amit Shah will chair a high-level meeting to discuss the security situation in Jammu and Kashmir in second such exercise in less than a fortnight at a time when terrorists have been carrying out targeted killings in the Valley.
Officials said Jammu and Kashmir Lt Governor Manoj Sinha and senior functionaries of the central government and union territory would participate in the meeting which is also expected to take stock of the arrangements for the annual Amarnath pilgrimage, which is being held after a two-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
This is the second high-level meeting in less than a fortnight on the Kashmir issue. In the last meeting on May 17, the home minister had advocated pro-active and coordinated counter-terror operations and had asked security forces to ensure zero cross-border infiltration and wipe out terrorism from the union territory.
The meeting comes in the wake of terrorists carrying out three targeted killings, including of a woman teacher hailing from Samba district of Jammu region at Kulgam on Tuesday.
On May 18, terrorists had entered into a wine shop at Baramulla in North Kashmir and threw a grenade, killing one person hailing from Jammu region and injuring three others. On May 24, a policeman, Saifullah Qadri, was shot dead outside his residence in Srinagar while a television artiste Amreen Bhat was gunned down in Budgam two days later.
Scores of Kashmiri Pandits, who were employed under a prime minister's package in 2012, have been staging continuous protests threatening mass exodus since the killing of Rahul Bhat, who was shot dead by terrorists on May 12 in Chadoora area of Budgam district in central Kashmir.
After the previous meeting, an official statement had said that the home minister directed security forces and the police to conduct coordinated counter-terrorism operations pro-actively.
The home minister had said that in order to fulfil Prime Minister Narendra Modi's vision of a prosperous and peaceful Jammu and Kashmir, security forces should ensure zero cross-border infiltration.
Taking stock of the Amarnath Yatra preparedness, Shah had said a "hassle-free" journey for the pilgrims is a priority of the Modi government and directed all arrangements, including additional electricity, water, and telecom facilities be made.
He had also stressed for enhancement of mobile connectivity along the yatra route as he directed that earth moving equipment should be placed at vantage points to clear the route in case of landslides.
The home minister had asked for an adequate number of oxygen cylinders, medical beds at an altitude of more than 6,000 feet and deployment of ambulances and helicopters to deal with any emergency medical situation. During the previous meeting, it was also decided to enable WiFi hotspots to ensure connectivity throughout the 39 km of the yatra route from Pahalgam in south Kashmir.
The other route is through Baltal in central Kashmir where a pilgrim treks for nearly 15 km. The yatra could not take place in 2020 and 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic and was cut short in 2019 just before the abrogation of Article 370. About three lakh pilgrims are likely to take part in the pilgrimage that is expected to end on August 11.
About 12,000 paramilitary personnel (120 companies) in addition to Jammu and Kashmir Police are expected to be deployed along the two pilgrimage routes, one from Pahalgam and the other via Baltal, officials said. Drone cameras will help the security forces to ensure the protection of the pilgrims.
School teacher Rajni Bala, 36, was shot dead in Kulgam district earlier on Tuesday. She was a native of Samba district but was posted at a government school in Gopalpora in Kulgam.
Rajni was the second non-Muslim government employee to be killed in May. She was also the seventh person to die in a targeted killing in Kashmir this month. While three victims were off-duty policemen, four were civilians.
Protests against Rajni's killing were also reported from Jammu city, where protesters burnt an effigy of the administration and raised slogans against Pakistan.
Rajni's killing follows the killing of 35-year-old Rahul Bhat earlier this month in his office in Budgam district, following which Kashmiri Pandits had held widespread protests across across Valley and had made similar demands for relocation to safer places outside the Kashmir Valley and had threatened to resign en masse.
Bhat was working as a government clerk under the PM employment package for Kashmiri Pandits. The little known outfit Allah Tigers claimed responsibility for the attack on Bhat.
On a Friday morning when Riyaz Ahmed Thokar was taking his child to school, unidentified men appeared from behind and fired a volley of bullets. The injured Thokar was shifted to the hospital only to be declared dead. Thokar was a constable with Jammu and Kashmir Police Department.
Bhat’s and Thokar's deaths follow a series of killings that have been happening since August 05, 2019, the day when the Union Government stripped Jammu and Kashmir of its special status and downgraded it to a Union Territory while simultaneously bifurcating the region into J&K and Ladakh UTs.
(with inputs from PTI)