Army, paramilitary likely to remain in strength in Kashmir till UTs created, elections held.
Srinagar: Close to 9.5 lakh personnel from the Army, various paramilitary units and special forces, besides the Indian Air Force, are guarding every inch of the Kashmir Valley amid heightened tensions between India and Pakistan in the aftermath of the scrapping of Article 370.
While a majority of forces were already stationed in the Valley, the Centre, in the past month, has deployed over 1.75 lakh additional forces — which is unprecedented in the history of Jammu and Kashmir. Besides the massive troop buildup, all the forces put together have flown in at least 100 doctors to cater to medical emergencies among soldiers and have stocked up on medicines and rations, which would last easily for the next three to four months. The doctors include specialists like cardiologists, neurosurgeons, general physicians and pathologists. Several dozen vehicles have been rented by the Jammu and Kashmir police to ferry soldiers, besides pressing into service more military vehicles to facilitate travel in the interior areas of the Valley, particularly in the troubled hotspots of South Kashmir.
While most shops are shut and locals confined within the four walls of their homes, outside on the streets it is only a sea of soldiers, covering every nook and corner of the Kashmir Valley, with officials describing preparations as “warlike”.
While the number of troops deployed explains how the Centre was able to ensure peace in the Valley, what is bothering the top brass in the security establishment is for how long will the massive deployment have to stay in place in the Valley.
Top security establishment sources told this newspaper that the biggest deployment, in terms of numbers, is that of the CRPF. In the Kashmir Valley alone, besides the regular deployment of 60 CRPF battalions, that roughly translates into nearly 60,000 men (each battalion has close to 1,000 personnel), the Centre had deployed an additional 40,000 personnel, which takes the deployment of CRPF personnel to about one lakh personnel.
“About 10 battalions (10,000 men) had arrived a month ahead of the Amarnath Yatra to sensitise the route and guard it which continued till it abruptly came to an end, days before Centre scrapped Article 370. They have been redeployed in different parts of the Valley. Besides, 30,000 additional troops were sent to the Valley in the days leading to the Centre’s announcement on August 5,” a CRPF official said.
The CRPF is the force which tackles stone-pelting and takes care of other law and order situations, assisted by the Jammu and Kashmir police, and it also runs counter-insurgency operations along with the Rashtriya Rifles. Besides 40,000 additional CRPF personnel, the Centre has also pressed into service an additional 30 companies of the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), besides at least 12 companies each of the Border Security Force (BSF) and the Indo-Tibetan Bordet Police (ITBP), who are deployed along with the CRPF for law and order duties. Each company comprises of roughly 100 personnel.
On the international border, meanwhile, the BSF already has nearly 60,000 men, which has also been increased in the past one month. At a few places along the Line of Control, the BSF has also been deployed along with the Indian Army personnel.
Though the Indian Army has not come out in the open with the additional numbers of Army soldiers deployed along the LoC, but it is estimated over 600,000 soldiers form part of the defence perimeter with Pakistan. “Over the last one month, additional deployment has been done but we cannot reveal the number for strategic reasons, an official said amid the rising tensions with Pakistan. Some officials said the Army deployment is over seven lakhs.
Besides the Army and the paramilitary is the Jammu and Kashmir police, whose total strength is about 83,000 personnel. While they are spread across J&K, the police too has its own Special Operations Group (SOG), who assists in counter-insurgency operations in the Valley.
Also part of the security grid is the elite National Security Guards (NSG). Sources said that though NSG commandos have always been made available in the Valley for operations, their strength too has been hiked in the past month in view of the announcement made by the Centre. “Wherever required, the NSG commandos and the Rashtriya Rifles are working in coordination,” a senior security official said.
Sources said even the strength of Air Force has been increased considerably in the past one month. “There were already 40,000 of them stationed here, and now the figures have gone up by several thousands,” sources said.
“It looks like the massive deployment will continue till the elections are completed here, or even beyond that. The situation now is volatile, and by the end of October the two UTs will formally come into existence. Thereafter, the Centre might go in for polls. So there is uncertainty over how long this huge deployment will remain in place,” a senior government official said.