SRINAGAR POLLS|Security forces told to 'exercise restraint', say officials

Security agencies have passed fresh directions to its personnel deployed for duties during the ongoing parliamentary elections to “exercise maximum restraint if they face crowds at the time of their withdrawal from poll-bound areas”, officials said on Monday.

The directions came days after a class 7 student died of grievous pellet injuries during clashes at the end of the polling in northern Handwara area on April 11, and ahead of the polling in the Srinagar parliamentary segment on April 18.

The Handwara pellet victim was identified as teenager OwaisMushtaq Mir.

“While an inquiry is on to ascertain how the (Handwara) boy sustained grave pellet injuries, we have taken extra measures to ensure repeat of such incidents on April 18. 

Directions have been passed to all the men deployed for election or law and order duties in Srinagar, Budgam and Ganderbal districts to exercise maximum restraint in hostile situations, if any,” a senior police officer told Greater Kashmir, wishing not to be named.

He said the existing security strategy has been “further fine-tuned to ensure least confrontation” between the security forces and civilian protestors, especially in Srinagar’s Downtown areas.

“Though there are no specific inputs that law and order incidents may take place in some pockets of Srinagar and Ganderbal, the police and CRPF personnel have been asked to maintain the highest level of synergy and coordination to prevent any civilian casualty,” said the officer, who is part of the joint security grid comprising police, CRPF and the army.

Inspector general of CRPF Ravideep Singh Sahi said that its men on ground have been asked to “strictly” follow the standard operating procedures (SOPs).  “There are separate components (of CRPF men) deployed to deal with the law and order challenges and for protection of polling booths.

Our men have been asked to avoid confrontation with miscreants and use minimum force in case the situation turns volatile in any area,” Sahi told Greater Kashmir, after taking stock of the poll arrangements in many Budgam areas.

A CRPF official said forces have also been asked to keep their vehicles in a standby mode to “ensure quick withdrawal from areas after the completion of the poll process”.

“In the elections held earlier, it has been witnessed that in majority of areas, youths hit streets and engage security forces in clashes at the time of their withdrawal. Quick withdrawal will help avoid confrontation with crowds,” he said.

An election department official said that 90 percent polling booths in Srinagar parliamentary constituency have been declared as “hypersensitive” while the rest 10 percent are “sensitive”.  The security officials have also categorised areas in the Srinagar Lok Sabha seat as “critical, vulnerable and those with high security concerns”.

An election department official said that 90 percent polling booths in Srinagar parliamentary constituency have been declared as “hypersensitive” while the rest 10 percent are “sensitive”.  The security officials have also categorised areas in the Srinagar LokSabha seat as “critical, vulnerable and those with high security concerns”.