2016 Home ministry: Mostly on toes over J&K and nothing much to cheer

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New Delhi, Dec 20 (UNI) The calendar year 2016 was a much challenging year for the Union Home

ministry with the vexed militancy problems in Jammu and Kashmir keeping the top guns on their toes.

Stone pelting by protesters, use of pellet bullets by security forces, repeated terror strikes and deaths of security personnel including from Indian Army and unrest at National Institute of Technology (NIT) in Srinagar after India lost WTO T20 cricket semi final to West Indies and gutting of school buildings in highly controversial circumstances did not leave much to cheer about.

The death of terrorist Hizbul Mujahideen ‘poster boy’ Burhan Muzaffar Wani in a joint encounter at Bumdoora village of Kokernag on July 8, 2016 kept the pot boiling and a series of incidents at later stage often forced the things to turn precarious in the militancy-hit state.

On the political space while there have been allegations and counter allegations, Parliament too saw adjournments, sloganeering and often heated debate on the situation in the state.

On July 21, replying to a short duration discussion in Lok Sabha, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said the terrorism that India is witnessing today is “Pakistan sponsored”.

“There can be no denying the fact that our neighbour (Pakistan) is singularly responsible for the present deterioration of the situation in the state,” Mr Singh said, adding that Pakistan that was “created in the name of religion” has failed to keep itself united. His reference was obviously to Pakistan’s failure to keep its eastern wing (Bangladesh) with it.

Referring to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s famous lines – “chingari ka khel khelna khatra hota hai (To play with fire is often dangerous for someone who plays it), Mr Singh also had sought to caution Pakistan.

Speaking on various occasions, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also reiterated more than once that his

government is pursuing with Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s roadmap of “Kashmiriyat, Jamurihat and Insaniyat

(Kashmiri spirit, democracy and humanity)” policy towards Kashmir.

The turmoil in the state and often administrative chaos led to political tension between the alliance

partners PDP and BJP in the state.

On September 3 in a major move, the Centre gave its nod to the use of an alternative grenades to

the highly controversial pellet guns.

The government cleared the use of Pelargonic Acid Vanillyl Amide (PAVA). This would mean in

rarest of occasions for mob control, henceforth there will be use of chilli-filled grenades.

On September 18, J&K along the rest of India woke up to a somber morning when dreaded terror strike attacked Army camp at Uri. The incident claimed lives of 19 Army personnel.

“Keeping the situation of Jammu and Kashmir in mind and in the wake of terror attack in Uri, I have

postponed my visits to Russia and the US,” Mr Singh said in a series of tweets.

In a move to take up India’s campaign against terror menace vis-a-vis ISIS activities and the role of

neighbouring Pakistan in fomenting trouble in Jammu and Kashmir, the Home Minister was scheduled to visit Russia for a five-day tour.

Throughout weeks, there have been repeated attacks on camps of Indian Army and BSF.

By September end, the government took a number of steps to meet any escalation in situation on the border with Pakistan. Around four lakh people were moved to safer places from border towns of Punjab.

In an advisory, Home ministry directing states said that additional forces should be deployed in all sensitive places, strategic installations, markets, religious places and other key places to ensure security.

Sources also said border states of Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat were asked to be extra vigilant as there were reports that some terrorists might have crossed over to India to avenge

the “surgical strikes” conducted by Indian Army.

Border Security Force was also directed to increase the number of personnel deployed at sensitive

posts along Pakistan border.

In the year gone by, an all-party delegation visited Kashmir. It was led by the Home Minister and comprised of whose who of parliamentarians.

However, the visit’s basic purpose to bring back normalcy got derailed as Huriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani snubbed Marxist leader Sitaram Yechury and other opposition leaders by declining to meet them.

Among other activities during the year, the Home Ministry remained engaged in dealing with challenges to ensure border fencing in Assam and also dealing with infiltration.

According to home ministry data, maximum infiltrations were reported from Indo-Bangladesh border with 771 cases of infiltration.

As many as 1,990 infiltrators were caught and 15 killed.

This was far higher than the 242 infiltration cases reported from the border with Pakistan, where 81 were caught and 39 killed.

The Indo-Myanmar border has also seen substantial activity, with 95 infiltration cases being registered,

110 infiltrators held and 14 killed.

“The total sanctioned length of fence along the Indo-Bangladesh border is 3,326km, out of which 2,731km has been completed,” MoS Home Kiren Rijiju said, adding that the Indo-Bangladesh border sealing would be completed by March 2019.

The Home ministry also hit headlines this year owing to its activities with regard to conduct of televangelist Zakir Naik and blacklisting of some NGOs for alleged violation of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) rules.

In a rather unusual decision, four officials of the Home Ministry were suspended on September 1 for their “lapses” in renewing the FCRA licence for the NGO Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) run by Zakir Naik.

Naik’s Peace TV and his speeches had come under the scanner of the central security agencies for allegedly propagating radical views, especially in the aftermath of the July 1 Dhaka terror siege that left 22 people dead.

According to security agencies, Zakir Naik through Peace TV had reportedly promoted radical Islamist views.

In yet another unusual development, an Under Secretary in the union home ministry, Anand Joshi,

after being summoned by the CBI was later arrested on graft charges.

Joshi, who was also suspended, was arrested by CBI for allegedly issuing FCRA notices in contravention of laws for financial gains to several NGOs, including Sabrang Trust headed by Teesta Setalvad.

Ms Setalvad has been engaged in intensive campaign against Mr Narendra Modi during his stint as Gujarat chief minister in connection with the 2002 anti-Muslim riots in the state.

The Home ministry faced challenges to deal with the economic blockade in Manipur and often even the Congress government in the state has attacked the Centre for not doing the needful to resolve the crisis.

The ‘Ishrat Jahan encounter case’ of Gujarat again returned to public discourse this year as high-voltage media interviews by former Union Home Minister G K Pillai surfaced and government ordered a probe to look for “missing files” as to when and how the then Congress Home Minister P Chidambaram had changed the affidavit related to the case in 2009.

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