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Drone intrusions, drug smuggling and new projects to figure in Amit Shah’s engagements in Kashmir

The Union Home Minister Amit Shah will meet the top Police, security and intelligence officials in Srinagar on Wednesday (Pic. Courtesy Twitter/@thereztlessmind)

A detailed review on the cases filed under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act besides smuggling of arms, ammunition and drugs for terror funding from Pakistan will figure prominently in the Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s meeting with the top Police, security and intelligence officials in Srinagar on Wednesday.

Shah is scheduled to arrive in Jammu in the evening today for a three-day-long tour—his third visit to Jammu and Kashmir since it became a Union Territory in August 2019. In the thick of a killing spree by terrorists, Shah had visited Kashmir in October last year. His current visit comes exactly a year after the killing of the popular chemist Makhan Lal Bindroo and some other members of the minority community.

Shah’s second visit to the UT happened in March 2022 when he participated in some events on occasion of the 83rd Raising Day of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).

Even as the militancy has been brought down to its lowest ebb and the current situation is largely different from the bloodshed witnessed in October 2021, tight security arrangements have been put in place all across the valley, particularly in Rajouri, Katra, Jammu, Srinagar and Baramulla. All the government employees, whether on duty or leave, have been directed to remain present at their stations during Shah’s visit.

Shah is scheduled to lay the foundation stone of several developmental works, inaugurate several projects and meet public delegations in both Jammu and Srinagar as also in Rajouri and Baramulla. In the beginning of his visit, Shah is scheduled to hold some meetings with the BJP leaders at Jammu.  His first day’s engagements include meetings with selected delegations including those from Gujjars and Bakerwals and Yuva Rajput Sabha.

Yuva Rajput Sabha is going to express gratitude to Shah for the UT Government’s declaration of 23 September as a gazetted holiday on the birth anniversary of Maharaja Hari Singh who signed the instrument of accession for merger of the princely State of Jammu and Kashmir into the Union of India in October 1947.

On Tuesday, Shah is scheduled to pay obeisance at the Mata Vaishno Devi cave shrine near Katra in Jammu on occasion of Durga Navmi. On the same day, he will be addressing a public meeting at Rajouri in which he is expected to announce the Scheduled Tribe status for Paharis and Pahari-speaking people including the refugees from the Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir. The BJP cadre are mobilising a large number of Paharis, as also Gujjars and Bakerwals who are already covered under ST status, for Shah’s public meetings at Rajouri in Jammu on Tuesday and at Baramulla in Kashmir on Wednesday.

According to official sources, the report pertaining to grant of ST status to Paharis, which was submitted by the Commission earlier, has reached the Tribal Affairs Department in the Government of India from where it would be forwarded to the Registrar General of India followed by Union Cabinet approval. After the Cabinet nod, the Parliament would carry out amendments in the Reservation Act. As the BJP is in majority in both Houses of the Parliament, it would be no difficulty for the Central government to pass the legislation.

On his return to Jammu on Tuesday, Shah is scheduled to inaugurate and lay the foundation stone of some developmental works of Jammu region from the Jammu Convention Centre (JCC). He is also expected to formally inaugurate a flyover and corridor on the Jammu-Rajouri-Poonch highway which is currently under construction. In the evening, Shah and his entourage from the Ministry would be flying to Srinagar for a host of engagements.

Shah’s key engagement in Kashmir on Wednesday would be to address a well-attended public meeting at Baramulla—the first highway town from Pakistani side where the marauders wreaked havoc and killed a large number of the civilians including over a dozen nuns and Christian missionary staff and the National Conference worker Maqbool Sherwani in October 1947. Former Deputy Chief Minister Muzaffar Hussain Baig, who is a veteran Pahari leader, and his wife, Safina Baig, currently Chairperson of District Development Council, are expected to join Shah’s public meeting.

In Srinagar on Wednesday, Shah is scheduled to inaugurate a number of projects in virtual mode. He will also lay the foundation stone of some important developmental projects. In the afternoon, he is scheduled to chair a high-level security review meeting along with Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha. Senior officials of the Jammu and Kashmir Police, Army, Central Armed Police Forces, intelligence and security agencies will brief the visiting Union Home Minister about the law and order and counterterrorism situation and the progress achieved in the last 12 months.

According to highly placed sources, the Union Home Minister would take a detailed review of the progress achieved on the counterterrorism and the law and order front in the last 12 months. He would be briefed about the detention of anti-national elements booked under the UAPA and the Public Safety Act. Shah may also seek reasons for not affecting the arrest of a number of persons who have been booked under UAPA and PSA.

Sources said that Pakistan’s sustained attempts to smuggle arms and ammunition, besides heavy consignments of drugs, through under-ground tunnels and drones on the borders in Jammu, as also the infiltration attempts on the LoC would figure in the meeting. Officials would also brief the Home Minister about the implementation of strategies to neutralise all such attempts and the flow of terror funds through hawala and drug channels. The Enforcement Directorate and the National Investigation Agency have conducted a large number of raids and affected arrests of the persons involved in such activities since October 2021.

Also Read: Paharis, PoK refugees expecting ST status during Shah’s 3rd visit to J&K