Army stays out of Valley towns to keep peace

Written by Political Bureau | Srinagar | Updated: Jul 8 2010, 06:54am hrs
The Army on Wednesday staged flag marches in parts of Srinagar but the government, deciding against the use of armed forces to restore order in Kashmir, kept the Army out of towns and populated areas, deploying troops on the peripheries.

Curfew was strictly enforced in Srinagar where the latest round of protests have led to 16 civilian deaths.

The Cabinet Committee on Security, which met in New Delhi to discuss the Valley situation, decided to let the civil administration deal with the matter, with help from Central paramilitary forces.

The government was of the view that the presence of the armed forces in the Valley was only a deterrent and it was up to the civil administration to decide when and where it wanted the troops deployed. It nipped speculation that the Army would be deployed in Srinagar and Sopore towns.

The Army, though, has been asked to step up its vigil around the towns and carry out routine checks. It has also been instructed to keep an eye on the entry points to towns and foil attempts by suspected trouble-makers from other areas of the Valley to get inside the towns.

The CCS was also of the view that curfew needed to be enforced more stringently by the local administration and people prevented from moving in groups.

J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah spoke to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over phone and briefed him on the law and order situation in the Valley. He also spoke twice to home minister P Chidambaram and to defence minister AK Antony.

Union home secretary G K Pillai flew into Srinagar from Delhi to take stock of the situation. He assured the chief minister of complete Central support in maintaining peace in the Valley. They discussed measures being taken to put an end to the violent protests. After meeting the CM, Pillai also chaired a meeting of officials of CRPF, Army, J-K Police and Intelligence Bureau.

On Tuesday night, at the request of the State government, the Centre decided on deploying Army to assist the civil authorities in restoring law and order in the wake of spiralling protests in Srinagar. The Army staged a flag march in some areas of curfew-bound Srinagar on Wednesday morning.

Earlier, MoS for defence MM Pallam Raju had said that Army would remain on the streets in Srinagar till it was necessary but the government would like it to be short.