NEW DELHI: India’s decision to send an additional 10,000 paramilitaries to the Kashmir Valley on Saturday has drawn sharp reaction from the troubled region.
There are fears the deployment foreshadows possible violence in the event that article 35A of the constitution, that gives special privileges to the people of Kashmir, is scrapped.
The decision to send additional troops comes days after the visit of National Security Advisor Ajit Doval to the region.
The Home Ministry said on Saturday that additional troops were being sent for “counter insurgency” operations and to maintain “law and order.”
Media reports suggest there are now around 700,000 troops, including the Indian Army personnel, paramilitary forces and state police, stationed in Kashmir.
“The decision to deploy an additional 10,000 troops has created fear,” said Mehbooba Mufti, a former chief minister and the leader of the People’s Democratic Party.
“There is no shortage of security forces in Kashmir. Jammu and Kashmir is a political problem which won’t be solved by military means. The Indian government needs to rethink and overhaul its policy,” he added.
“The additional deployment is not a good sign — people are in panic, fearing the scrapping of articles 370 and 35A,” said Ali Mohammad Sagar of the National Conference party. “Time and again we have said that dialogue is the only way to solve the problem. The Indian government should listen.”
Local Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Dr. Hina Bhat said: “The deployment of the troops does not indicate that special provisions of the constitution are going to be scrapped. I don’t think you need special forces to contain the reaction, the existing armed forces have enough heft to handle any eventuality.
“Article 370 has already lost its relevance. It is no longer the same article, and article 35A is being reviewed in court,” she added.
Kashmir’s Director General of Police Muneer Khan said on Saturday that people should not trust “rumors” regarding the deployment.
He told the media that additional troops would “replace personnel of training companies, deployed on various duties since last year.”
Ravideep Sahi, inspector general of the Central Reserve Police Force, added that the deployment was “a routine matter.”
Despite assurances, however, the Indian media suggest that the government is considering scrapping article 35A, which confers special rights and privileges upon the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir. Article 370, meanwhile, gives the region its claim to autonomy.
The ruling BJP has long pledged to remove these articles from the constitution.
Srinagar-based political analyst Prof. Siddiq Wahid said that if they were to be done away with, the “anger” of many Kashmiri factions could not be predicted.
“In the short term it could be violent — in the long term it could eat away at India’s integrity,” Wahid told Arab News.
“Troop deployment serves the purpose of gaining a psychological advantage. The 40,000 troops sent last year and the 10,000 this year serve both purposes.”
Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal, editor of the Kashmir Times newspaper, said: “Additional troop deployment is not in line with other arguments of the government that the situation is improving in Kashmir.
“There is already a disproportionate presence in the valley, with one estimate saying that for every twenty men there is a man in uniform. This further damages the cause of peace — the more the troops there are, the more repression.
“Militarization is against the democratic spirit of the country. Civil liberties get curtailed with the presence of troops. What we need is a political approach to reach out to the people. The troops have created panic among the people.”