Top Defence authorities have indicated a terror threat to the Belgaum fort, even as the district has recorded movement of SIMI activists, some of whom belonging to Belgaum city have been arrested and are facing trial in various courts.
The fort houses a Jain Basadi, temples, ancient mosques, schools and the Ramakrishna Mission Ashram with the Swami Vivekananda Memorial and the Universal Temple of Sri Ramakrishna, offices of the Defence department and the State government.
Brigadier Santosh Kurup, Commandant of the Maratha Light Infantry Regimental Centre (MLIRC) here, who was initially reluctant to comment on the issue, told The Hindu here on Wednesday that the regimental centre received strong inputs from the Army headquarters in New Delhi about possible terror strikes at army installations, following the arrests of some of the most wanted terrorists with history and links in Karnataka.
Accordingly, security measures have been strengthened in and around army offices and installations, including the fort premises and the cantonment area. Notice boards declaring these areas as “Restricted Area” have been put up both at the entry points of the fort and cantonment area, which houses the regimental centre.
He clarified that there was no restriction on the movement of public in the fort or the cantonment areas but people entering these restricted areas were liable to be checked. Photography has been prohibited and vehicle speed limited to not more than 40 kmph in these areas.
Brigadier Kurup said that these restrictions were put in place purely for security reasons and as per the directions of the army headquarters. They were not to harass people, as some have misunderstood. The notice boards were not illegal as alleged by a section of the people but they had become necessary from the security point of view.
Meanwhile, Belgaum Cantonment Residents Welfare Association president Omar Farooq Nawab and secretary Ranjan Shetti have taken objections to these restrictions stating that they were detrimental to the growth of tourism and could result in unnecessary harassment of the public.
They said that visitors, particularly women, being searched could result in law and order problem. They said that as the winter session of the legislature has been scheduled at the Suvarna Vidhana Soudha here from November 25 to December 4, a large number of people from north Karnataka districts would visit the city and these restrictions may become a hindrance to them. They urged the government to help remove these restrictions.
However, Brigadier Kurup said that people should cooperate with the army which protects them from the enemy. He wondered why people did not object when security guards at shopping malls frisked them and carry out searches. People also did not object when security personnel checked their vehicles at parking lots at airports and other places in the metros, he said.