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J&K: Chidambaram urges forces to be on high alert

By Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar
March 18, 2009 22:21 IST
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The Union home minister, P. Chidambaram on Wednesday asked the security forces to remain on high alert in the wake of turmoil in Pakistan and the parliamentary elections.

"The situation in Pakistan is giving us no comfort at all. We don't know who is in control there. Prudence requires we remain on high alert, especially between April 13 and May 7 when the elections will be conducted in Jammu and Kashmir," Chidambaran told media persons after a high level review of the overall situation in the state at unified command headquarters meeting in Srinagar.

The home minister said that all the "candidates contesting elections as well as political leaders will be adequately protected."

Chidambaram said that the army has ordered an investigation into the Bomai incident and assured that "appropriate action will be taken once the report becomes available."

Two youth were killed last month in alleged army firing at Bomai, near the north Kashmir Sopore town, following which the state government ordered an inquiry.

On being asked to comment on the Bomai incident, the home minister said the civil administration has completed its probe and the army has ordered an investigation, adding that the report will be available shortly.

"The defence minister told me this morning that the army has ordered an investigation into the incident. Be sure, the defence minister, myself and the chief minister will look into both the reports and take appropriate action," Chidambaram said.

The home minister said there is an excellent rapport between the army, paramilitary forces, police and the civil administration which will work together to safeguard the interests of Jammu and Kashmir.

He said, "The situation in the state has considerably improved in the last two years and the level of violence has also gone down."

"The security forces are better equipped and positioned to control violence, which has shown remarkable drop in the state," Chidambaram added.

Stating that the state police would be at its full strength by 2010, Chidambaram said the issue of strengthening the police vis-à-vis weaponry, vehicles and housing would be addressed by the Central government in consultation with the state government as expeditiously as possible.

"Jammu and Kashmir police has sanctioned strength of 79,275 including the five battalions raised recently. There are 6,000 vacancies which will be filled this calendar year," he said, adding that steps would be initiated for identifying a secure communication network to connect the 174 police stations in the state with police headquarters.

The home minister said the issue of revocation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act was an old demand which has been flagged by the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.

He said the issue will be discussed appropriately after the Lok Sabha elections are conducted.

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Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar