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Amit Shah’s Kashmir visit on Aug 15 depends on ground situation: Official

A visit by Home Minister Amit Shah to Jammu and Kashmir on Independence Day, 15 August, is possible but would depend on ground reports, a senior home ministry official, who did not want to named, said on Tuesday.

“There is a plan… but there is no firm decision yet,” the official said on the home minister’s first visit to Jammu and Kashmir after the state was stripped of its special status under Article 370.

Home Minister Amit Shah has pitched the change, along with the conversion of the state into two union territories from October 31, as steps that would fast track development and end terrorism in the state.

National Security Adviser Ajit Kumar Doval, who has been camping in the state for the past week, already has plans to stay put in the Kashmir valley till at least August 15 to ensure that Pakistan’s plans to engineer violence are blunted.

The government’s tentative plan for the home minister’s visit to Jammu and Kashmir comes against the backdrop of the government and BJP’s push to ensure that Independence Day is celebrated not just at the state and district headquarters, but every panchayat.

The government had snapped communication links and restricted movement of people in large parts of the state to curb the possibility of street protests and agitations, particularly in Kashmir Valley. The government has also detained the state’s two former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mufti Mehbooba.

The restrictions have provoked sharp criticism of the government from opposition parties. In the Supreme Court on Tuesday, the Centre’s top law officer reasoned that the restrictions were aimed at ensuring that the widespread protests that followed the killing of Hizbul commander Burhan Wani in 2016 weren’t repeated. In 2016, 44 people had lost their lives in these protests.

“One will have to do a trade-off between casualties because of violence and inconvenience caused to people-at-large,” a second senior Home Ministry official who didn’t want to named, said.

“As we go forward, curbs and restrictions will be reduced. The government is keen to restore normalcy as early as possible,” he added.

J&K administration spokesperson Rohit Kansal made the same point.

“The restrictions are being eased out in a phased manner in the Valley and the situation in the Jammu division has been restored,” he said, underscoring that restrictions were also being eased after a local assessment by local authorities in different localities of the Kashmir division in a phased manner.

On preparations for the Independence Day celebrations, the senior government official said the full dress rehearsal had been done in every district of the Valley and the necessary arrangements had already been put in place.

First Published:
Aug 13, 2019 17:28 IST

Source: HindustanTimes