Srinagar: The army has decided to deploy troops to sanitise important highways and roads in Kashmir starting Thursday, to ensure smooth traffic movement in the violence-plagued valley. It will be for the first time troops will be on the roads to ensure the security of the highways in Kashmir, including the national highway 1A, which connects the valley with the rest of India.
“The army was moving during the nights not because we could not take care of the roads, but essentially for two reasons -- one, we wanted to avoid collateral damage and because of the Haj period till tomorrow. We will start moving during the day from tomorrow onwards,” Lt General Satish Dua, Chinar Corps commander, told reporters in Srinagar on Thursday.
"From tomorrow onwards the traffic will be normal for both the civil as well as army," Lt Gen Dua said.
An army convoy was attacked by militants on the Srinagar–Baramulla national highway in the wee hours of Wednesday morning that resulted in the deaths of two soldiers and a policeman. Security experts say, the decision to move convoys in the day might have been taken after the attack.
But, Lt Gen Dua, however chose to differ.
He said the decisions was not taken after the attack but to make sure highways in Kashmir are secured and there is free movement of both civilian and an army convoys.
“It has nothing to with the attack on the army,” Lt Gen Dua said.
This would for the first time, since the ongoing unrest began in the valley on 8 July after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani, that army convoys would be moving during the day.
Late on Wednesday a lecturer was allegedly beaten to death by the army in the Khrew area of Pulwama district, taking the civilian death toll to 66 in the ongoing unrest in the valley. Shabir Ahmad Mangoo, 30, was killed when troops raided his house in the village and ran amok. Ahmad’s body was handed over to his family by the hospital authorities, after the police refused to hand it over to the family. He was one among the 28 people arrested by the army. Police sources said army first approached them asking them to hand over the dead body of Shabir to the family. However, police refused to do so. The police have registered a case.
National Conference leader, Yawar Masoodi demanded registration of FIR against the accused in killing of Mangoo.
"The security forces comprising of army, CRPF and SOG cordoned the village Shar-e-Shali at around 10 pm when the residents were asleep and beat them up mercilessly till 2 am. The forces after breaking open the doors and windows entered residential houses and attacked men, women and children. In the unjustified crackdown scores of people were injured and property worth lakhs were damaged," Masoodi said.
“We exercise maximum restraint. But please do understand army doesn’t have any teargas or pellet guns, and if we are constrained to the last resort we fire at the legs,” Lt Gen Dua said, while interacting with reporters in Srinagar.
“The last night's incident is regrettable. It was a joint patrol when a death took place. But I assure you, we will investigate into the incident," the Chinar Corps commander said.
"The factual position of our mandate is that we are here to control terrorism. At no stage have we gone to assist them in the law and order situation," Lt Gen Dua said.
However, the decision to deploy troops on the roads, experts say, could lead to a direct confrontation between protesters and army. Protesters have in the past tried to take control of the highway by blocking the movement of people and forces.
The state government has reportedly asked oil depots not to distribute fuel to dealers, which could completely paralyse life in Kashmir. But the government denied having taken any such decision.