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'CRPF in J&K should only play a secondary role'

By Sumir Kaul in Srinagar
June 11, 2009 19:05 IST
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A high-level meeting on Thursday decided to review the deployment of Central Reserve Police Force in Jammu and Kashmir with Home Minister P Chidambaram saying the Centre would like the paramilitary forces to play only a secondary role in the border state.

A decision to soon launch an exercise with the aim of seeing the J & K police don a primary role and gradually replace the CRPF was taken at the Unified Headquarters meeting attended by Chidambaram who said, "We would like to take small, baby steps one by one and no great leap in Kashmir."

The meeting was presided by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. The issue of reorganisation and reorientation of Central Paramilitary forces especially CRPF in the militancy-hit border state and gradually handing over their duties of guarding vital installations and protecting VIPs to the state police came up for discussion at the crucial meeting.

Chidamabaram said whatever was being planned cannot be done overnight and the issue will be reviewed after six weeks. The state police should play a primary role in the state while the paramilitary forces should don a secondary role, he said.

Chidambaram's remarks were in line with the promise made by the CM after assuming office that the paramilitary forces should have a lesser role in the state. The gradual reduction of paramilitary forces especially the CRPF from the state was very much required as the Centre needed them in Naxal affected states, official sources said.

Chidambaram, who arrived in Srinagar on Thursday morning on a two-day visit to the state, made an on-the-spot assessment of security situation and comes in the backdrop of the tension over alleged rape and murder of two young girls in Shopian.

It is his first visit to J & K in United Progressive Alliance government's second term. A view was aired during the meeting that since CRPF has been deployed in the state since 1990, it was high time that a proper study was conducted to evaluate their role.

The Unified Headquarters headed by the Chief Minister comprises all senior officials of Police, Army, Central Paramiltary Forces, state government and intelligence agencies operating in the state.

Addressing the meeting, Omar Abdullah said he was grateful to central paramilitary forces and the police for countering insurgency but cautioned that utmost care should be taken in ensuring that there was no human rights violation in the process.

Omar said a single mistake by the police or paramilitary forces could be exploited by international elements. Army in its presentation said it has a three-tier structure in place to counter insurgency and infiltration from across the Line of Control and the International Border.

The Army claimed that all the militants who have managed to sneak in from across the LoC have been neutralised. During the meeting a need was also felt for engaging "certain elements" for talks in the state.

Before coming to the meeting, Chidambaram had a one-on-one meeting with Omar Abdullah in which he discussed security issues and progress of development projects in the state.

The Home Minister, who heads a team of senior officials, will take stock of reports of infiltration that has taken place in the state from the army officials, including the top-brass of Srinagar-based 15 Corps.

According to a state government report, nearly 200 militants have managed to infiltrate in the recent past. Security arrangements for the annual Amarnath Yatra, which is scheduled to begin on June 15, also figured in the Home Minister's discussions with the state government.

Chidambaram's visit to the state comes after a three-day tour by the Special Secretary (Internal Security) Raman Srivastava during which he met senior officials of the state government, the army, the central paramilitary forces and the Amarnath Shrine Board.

According to Home Ministry sources, Srivastava has given inputs to Chidambaram about the infiltration problem. The Valley witnessed week-long protests over the alleged rape and murder of two women in Shopian, 52 km from Srinagar.

Violence broke out in the Valley after the bodies of Asiya (17) and her sister-in-law Nelofar (22) were recovered on May 30 after they went missing from an orchard. The state government has ordered a judicial inquiry into the matter and registered a case of rape and murder.

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Sumir Kaul in Srinagar
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