Izhar Nazir Ali/ Mushtaq Ahmed
Srinagar/Baramulla: Unprecedented security arrangements were put in place Thursday in Srinagar and the border town of Uri in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district on the eve of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the state amid fears of public protests and militant strikes.
After being elected as Prime Minister, it will be Modi’s maiden visit to the state. During his one-day visit on Friday, he will inaugurate train service from Udhampur to Katra town that houses the shrine of Vaishno Devi. Later he will fly to the border town of Uri to inaugurate 240 MW Uri-II hydel power project. He will also chair a high level meeting of the Unified Headquarters at the army’s 15 Corps headquarters, Badami Bagh.
Reports said police and CRPF troops further intensified the security bandobast in Srinagar and other parts of Valley to prevent any possible militant attacks and to ensure trouble-free visit of the Prime Minister.
Here in this capital city, scores of mobile bunkers have popped up, where people are being subjected to frisking and identification checks. Wearing bullet-proof vests and headgear, the forces conducted day long searches at Nigeen road, Rainawari, Nowhatta, Khanyar, Munawarabad, and other parts of the city Old City. Security has also been beefed up in Lal Chowk, the commercial hub of this capital city.
Despite heavy downpour, the forces conducted thorough searches of people and their vehicles at Maulana Azad Road and other areas. The stringent security measures led to traffic snarls causing much inconvenience to the people, many commuters told Kashmir Reader.
Sniffer dogs and sharp shooters have also been pressed into service to thwart any possible militant attack during the high profile visit. The activities in this capital city are also being closely monitored through the CCTVs. Many people, including an elderly man, have been picked up by the police from Soura area of the city ahead of Modi’s visit.
Sheikh Muhammad Ashraf, 61, of Hamzah Colony, Ahmed Nagar, Meraj-ud-Din Najar of Buchpora, and Waheed Ahmad Bhat were detained by police in a series of raids. The police have said that the trio will be released after PM’s visit concludes.
Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, Shailendra Kumar told Kashmir Reader that frisking and identification checks are conducted “only in certain situations.”
“There are certain elements who always look out for occasions to create disturbances. This frisking and checking is meant to keep them at bay,” he added.
Meanwhile, Salamabad area of the border town Uri, where Modi will inaugurate the Uri II-power project Friday, has been virtually turned into a garrison with huge presence of the forces. Besides the elite Special Protection Group (SPG) personnel, army has also deployed specially trained Para troopers around the venue. The SPG personnel joined by soldiers sanitized with the help of metal detectors and sniffer dogs the helipad and the surface route from where Modi will reach the Uri power project.
The soldiers of 19 Infantry Division have also been deployed around the forests, rivulets and link roads of Uri to prevent any possible attack by militants. The army conducted daylong searches of the forests with the help of sniffers dogs.
“Choppers have also been pressed into service to maintain surveillance along the Uri hills. Besides, round the clock vigil is being maintained by army along the Line of Control,” Abid Hussain, a local said.
Thousands of CRPF troopers and policemen, carrying assault rifles have also been deployed around the 87 km Srinagar-Muzaffarabad highway, even as Modi will only tread 4 km patch of the highway from helipad to the Uri Power project in a bullet-proof vehicle that will escorted by SPG personnel and teams of army, and police.
The forces have also barricaded the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad highway, where the commuters are being subjected to intense checks. At Sheeri, and Khanpora, forces had erected barricades where people were subjected to frisking and luggage checks.
Meanwhile, a senior police official, wishing not to be named, told Kashmir Reader that three-tier security will be put in place around the venues of Modi.
“At the Uri power project, the inner ring will be looked after by SPG sleuths. Army will maintain the second ring, while police and CRPF will take care of the outer ring. The security will remain at its highest,” he said.
He said the stringent security measures will also affect the air traffic at the Srinagar International Airport around Friday noon. The Srinagar-Muzaffarabad highway will also be out of bounds for the commuters due to Modi’s visit.
“No flight will be allowed to take off or land, until the PM’s aeroplane reaches the airport. There will also be restriction on the movement of passengers and vehicles for sometime at the airport,” the officer added.
Several pro-freedom groups, including both faction of Hurriyat Conference factions, JKLF, and the United Jihad Council have called for a shutdown on Friday against Modi’s visit.
Last year, eight soldiers were killed and several wounded when militants ambushed their convoy in Hyderpora area of the city outskirts, a day ahead of Modi’s predecessor Manmohan Singh’s visit to the Valley.