Army Concerned Over Handwara Post Removal
21 RR at Handwara had neutralised 14 militants in two years, post vital for monitoring area
New Delhi: There are concerns that a demand to remove the Army post in Handwara, where the current round of protests originated, may have an adverse impact on anti-militancy operations in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Handwara town post, manned by the 21 Rashtriya Rifles, had come under attack on Tuesday after a mob wentontherampageonrumorsthata local girl had been molested by soldiers. Three people were killed in firing by security forces to control the situation after an Army bunker was burntdownandsoldierssurrounded.
The district magistrate will now be writing to the Army to remove the post, with sources saying that political pressure may also come into play to diffuse the situation. However, security officials told ET that the post is crucial to anti-militancy operations in the region and overlooks five converging roads.
“The post is of strategic importance and has been vital in keeping an eye on over ground workers. It is a major town post that is led by a company commander,” an official said, adding that militant activities in the town are kept under watch from the post. Handwara and its surrounding areas have seen heavy militant activity in recent years, with the 21 RR recording 14 kills since 2014, including a record seven militants killed last year. “The 21 RR has a good grip on the area and has neutralized two militants already this year,” Col SD Goswani, the spokesperson for the Army’s Northern Command told ET.
TheHandwarapostand21RRspresence in the area is also a political sticking point, with Engineer Rashid, the local independent MLA raising its removal from the town as an election agenda in 2015 in which he eventually won, defeating powerful candidates of the PDP and National Conference.
A youth was killed on Friday and three others injured as security forces fired in Kupwara to disperse protesters who were pelting stones on an Army camp during a demonstration. Protests rocked many places in Kupwara and its adjoining areas to mark the fourth day of death of three persons who were killed in firing by security forces in Handwara on Tuesday following allegations of molestation of a girl. Reports of protests were also received from parts of south Kashmir and Srinagar city but there were no casualties in these incidents.—