Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram reviewed the security situation in Baramulla and Srinagar on Sunday and asked the State government to further its efforts to restore complete normality in the Kashmir Valley.
A meeting he held with Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and top officials of the State reviewed the security situation, besides development works. “It was a joint meeting of the Unified Headquarters with the Home Minister and the brass of the paramilitary forces and the Home Ministry,” sources said.
Earlier in the day, Mr. Chidambaram flew to the Singhpora sector headquarters of the Border Security Force, near Baramulla. He interacted with officers before chairing a high-level meeting that focussed on infiltration bids mounted by militants from across the border and the law and order situation. The Minister was briefed about the challenges in checking infiltration and told that the area was returning to normality. The Director-General of Police, the CRPF Director-General, the Inspector-General of Police, Kashmir Zone, and the Deputy Commissioners and the SSP of Baramulla, Kupwara and Bandipore districts, besides civil officials, attended the meeting. Mr. Chidambaram took his security detail by surprise when he chose to go around Baramulla without much security. Sources said he had kept his visit a “secret.” Like other towns, Baramulla witnessed large-scale violence during the four-month unrest and was observing a shutdown on Sunday in response to a call given by hardline Hurriyat Conference leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani.
Mr. Omar Abdullah and his Cabinet colleagues, except senior Congress leader and Education Minister Peerzada Sayeed, were conspicuous by their absence during Mr. Chidambaram’s visit to Baramulla.
Later, he received delegations, including those of the National Conference, the Congress, the Transporters’ Association, the Fruit Growers’ Association, the Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, the Tangmarg Beopar Mandal and the Pahari Welfare Forum. One delegation wanted Mr. Chidambaram to get the security forces to vacate from 16,000 kanals of orchids and agriculture land, as their “occupation” was affecting the economy. Alternative places should be found for the forces, a member of the delegation said.
They also demanded that 6,000 Army vehicles plying on the Srinagar-Baramulla Highway daily be stopped, and instead be directed to run in the evening hours to avoid the inconvenience to the people and losses to businesses. “We urged him to declare Baramulla a border district.”
“He listened to us patiently and asked [us] to fax and email [our] representations to him,” said one of the members of another delegation. He said Mr. Chidambaram reiterated that the people should meet the three interlocutors and discuss the political issues with them. He said the Centre would take steps to address the economic issues, for which a committee was set up under the leadership of C. Rangarajan, chairman of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council.
Visits Kargil district
Before flying to Baramulla, Mr. Chidambaram visited Kargil district in the Ladakh region and took stock of the progress of development works and the problems being faced by the people who suffered heavily from the recent floods. He also reviewed the steps being taken for repairing the infrastructure. He visited Leh on Saturday.