NSA Ajit Doval camping in J&K as Centre's 'micro-manager'

By Rajnish Singh

New Delhi, Aug 12 (IANS) With questions about the future reverberating across Jammu and Kashmir, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval has been camping in the Valley to "micro-manage" and ease the situation and become a bridge between the residents and the Centre.

Amid restrictions across the Valley, Doval on Monday carried out a recce of entire Srinagar including downtown, Soura, Pampore, Lal Chowk, Hazratbal, Budgam (Charar e Sharif area), as well as south Kashmir's Pulwama and Awantipora when the erstwhile state, as per Union Home Ministry and J&K Police, "celebrated a peaceful Eid-al-Adha".

The photographs and videos shared by the government showed that Eid celebrations were going on in Jammu and Kashmir which has been under restrictions since early August 5 when the government imposed prohibitory orders and then declared abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution which gives special status to the region.

As the government said there were some "minor localised protests of a routine nature" in a few places but that over 10,000 people offered prayers in "peaceful environment", Doval interacted with residents and wished them on Eid.

There have been some isolated incidents of stone-pelting at "small levels" and the police handled the situation and dispersed the protesters, a statement from the government said.

Since the lockdown in the region, Doval has been interacting with residents, the J&K Police, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and Army. On Saturday, he met people in terror-hit Anantnag district in south Kashmir.

Landing in Srinagar hours after Union Home Minister Amit Shah last Monday announced the abrogation of Article 370 and the state's bifurcation, Doval, the first NSA with a Cabinet rank, is expected to stay in the area for some more days.

Since reaching the Kashmir Valley, he has been visiting various troubled areas, including Shopian in south Kashmir, the hotbed of local militants in Kashmir.

Sources in the security establishment said that Doval wanted to be in the field personally to take stock of the situation instead of depending on the inputs gathered from security officials. He left on Sunday for a quick trip to New Delhi but was back in Srinagar by Sunday evening, said sources.

Doval's Kashmir trip became a social media sensation when videos and photographs of him enjoying a meal with people on the streets of south Kashmir went viral on Wednesday.

Apart from feasting on biryani with Kashmiris, the videos also show Doval in discussion with Jammu and Kashmir Police, the CRPF and the Army -- the three forces handling security in the newly-created Union Territory which will come into effect from October 31.

The videos came as a surprise because they marked the first time ever that an incumbent NSA was seen on the ground and in action.

The site where the footage was shot, Shopian, was specifically chosen too, because of its role in local militancy.

The NSA started his visit again on Monday when people from different walks of lives thronged the street and peacefully celebrated the festival. Residents did not face any kind of inconvenience while moving towards the mosques, the government said.

Eid prayers were not allowed in most of the main mosques in Srinagar where curfew-like curbs were re-imposed on Sunday amid fear of violence.

People offered namaz and were also seen greeting on duty police personnel.

"Eid prayers concluded peacefully in various parts of the valley. No untoward incident reported so far," the official Twitter handle of the Jammu and Kashmir Police posted on Monday morning.

Sharing a photo of people distributing sweets after offering namaz, Union Home Ministry spokesperson Vasudha Gupta tweeted: "Eid prayers offered peacefully in all local mosques of Anantnag, Baramulla, Budgam, Bandipore, without any untoward incident. Jamia Masjid old town Baramulla witnessed approx 10,000 people offering prayers.

"People come out in good numbers to pray on Eid in Jammu and Kashmir prayers concluded at prominent mosques in Srinagar and Shopian. Over 4,500 offer prayers at Eidgah Jammu."

Amid the celebrations, government vehicles carrying police and security personnel were seen on almost all the deserted roads and streets which are generally crowded on this occasion.

Earlier on Monday, J&K's Principal Secretary, Planning, Rohit Kansal said: "In order to facilitate communication and in light of the suspension of internet and mobile services in the state, the state administration has established a communication centre in Srinagar and other parts of the state."

He further added that over 2.5 lakh sacrificial animals were arranged by the administration and mandis were set up in eight places.

(Rajnish Singh can be contacted at rajnish.s@ians.in)

--IANS

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