Mehbooba wants to depict ‘sense of normalcy’ by reducing forces from civilian, tourist areas

Mehbooba chairs her first United Headquarters meeting

SRINAGAR: Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir – Mehbooba Mufti – on Tuesday expressed the need to depict a “sense of normalcy” in Jammu and Kashmir, by reducing the number of government forces in civilian areas and tourist places.

Mehbooba was speaking at a meeting of Unified Headquarters, which was held first time today after she took over as the Chief Minister.

According to a statement issued by the government, the Chief Minister said visibility of the security forces and bunkers should be minimised in the civilian areas to “further the sense of normalcy.”

“Mehbooba Mufti also stressed upon reducing the footprint of security forces at various tourist places and airports so as to cause less inconvenience to the visitors and to welcome them with a sense of normalcy,” the statement added.

However, the statement did not quote her saying anything about reducing the number of forces deployed in Kashmir, known as the most militarized region in the world. Demilitarization has been a long pending demand of pro-freedom groups in Kashmir. Mehbooba wants to depict ‘sense of normalcy’ by reducing forces from civilian, tourist areas.

Interestingly, the Indian army claimed that there were less than 200 militants, who are the armed anti-India rebels, active in Kashmir. However, there were reportedly over half a million forces personnel deployed in the region.

Mehbooba’s statement came about three weeks after northern Kashmir’s Handwara town erupted in protest against an alleged attempt by an army man to molest a minor schoolgirl. The army personnel fired upon protesters killing five of them in a week. The civilians also set on fire an army bunker in main Handwara chowk, which was established over a decade back. The authorities later removed the bunker.

In today’s meeting, the Chief Minister asked security agencies to conduct their operations keeping in view the safety of the people so that ‘an environment of peace and tranquillity is maintained’. “[It] will enable the government to implement its agenda of good governance and development in the state,” the government statement read.

Mehbooba focused on a “humane approach” while dealing with law-and-order situations on the ground. “Any incident of civilian killing reverses all the gains that have been achieved so far,” she said.

While asking the security agencies to maintain restraint at all costs to avoid any civilian casualties and collateral damage, the Chief Minister said, “It would be in the fitness of things to give an option of homecoming to the local youth who have picked up guns.”

The Chief Minister said the State Police needed to be “complimented” for the way they had been “working under tremendous pressure from all sides” to maintain law-and-order.

Top police, army and administrative officers attended the meeting.