We have sought adjournment of proceedings in pleas challenging the constitutional validity of Articles 35-A and 370 in the Supreme Court and that remains our stand on the issue, the governor's administration said on Sunday, even as it urged people to not to pay heed to rumours or get panicky "on the basis of unsubstantiated information in circulation".
Addressing a press conference here in the wake of various types of rumours flying thick and fast in Kashmir in the past two days, RohitKansal, the official spokesman of the state administration, said: "The state government has already written a letter on February 11 and requested for adjournment of the proceedings (in pleas challenging Articles 35A and 370, which provide special status to state). That remains the government's stand on the issue".
Kansal, the principal secretary of the planning, development and monitoring department, was this morning designated as official spokesman of the state government.
The administration's clarification comes at a time when rumours are rife that the BharatiyaJanata Party-led government of India might fiddle with the state's special status ahead of the general elections and that's why additional forces have been sent to Kashmir to "handle the possible law and order situation".
Asked about deployment of additional forces, Kansal said: "During the panchayat elections, we had more companies of forces in Kashmir. For the general elections, additional forces are required to supplement the state's security grid. This (additional deployment) should be looked at in that context only. This is precisely what we have clarified, so there is no room for reading any other meaning into this".
The deployment of additional forces should be looked at vis-à-vis preparation of elections only, "nothing more, nothing less", he said.
On deployment of Border Security Force in parts of Kashmir after a gap of 14 years, Kansal said, "Whether its forces A or B, it's purely an operational matter. We have a security grid with set of officers who asses the requirement at every stage, take cognisance of it and take the action appropriately. Which force to be used, where it is to be used and how it is to be used, is best left to the discretion of officers".
About orders issued by the health and food and supplies departments in the past two days regarding stocking up of essentials, Kansal said: "The situation vis-à-vis (Srinagar-Jammu) highway is peculiar. The transit time of trucks, which used to be six days at one point of time is 15 days today, which is why the Valley is facing some kind of difficulty vis-à-vis supplies. These orders, therefore, should be looked at in that context only".
Kansal said that fuel rationing was done in view of apprehensions of shortage of stocks following prolonged closure of the highway following inclement weather conditions.
"We are expecting augmentation of stocks with the movement of trucks on the highway following its re-opening," he said.
Regarding distribution of ration, Kansal said the food, civil supplies and consumer affairs department has been asked to "ensure judicious distribution of ration as there is procedural requirement of advance stocking of ration for the month of March and there is nothing to create panic about it".
He said in view of the highway closure, availability of essential supplies is being ensured for public convenience. About accusations by the Democratic Freedom Party chairman Shabir Ahmad Shah's wife Bilquees Shah that her husband has been attacked in New Delhi's Tihar jail, Kansal said: "Please don't spread rumors, please don't believe in rumors". All activities and events happening in Kashmir have to be "looked at in proper context and should not be taken out of context to leave any scope for exaggerations".
"In the past few days, we have seen a number of rumours and panic massages being circulated. Many of them have been based on incomplete, unsubstantiated information. Some organisations, political parties have reacted to these kinds of information, creating a round of confusion and difficulty. Therefore my first appeal to everybody is: don't pay any heed to any rumours. Avoid any kind of fear-mongering and please don't aggravate any matter," Kansal said.
Following the Pulwama militant attack on February 14, he said the government has been concerned about safety and security of residents of Jammu and Kashmir, who are working or studying in other parts of the country.
"Since November 2018, the government designated seven liaison officers in various cities to interact, coordinate and assist more than 20,000 students of Jammu and Kashmir, who are studying in other parts of the country. These LOs are in close touch with the students and after the Pulwama incident happened, they were activated further and asked to be in close contact with students in cities earmarked for them," he said. Kansal said a 24×7 helpline was set up in the office of principal resident commissioner New Delhi, while a similar helpline was set up in the office of divisional commissioner Kashmir as well in district offices in the Kashmir division. "On behalf of the state government, I appeal for calm and I reassure that the government is concerned about people's welfare and will ensure that all the citizens of this state, whether within or outside the state, are safe and secure and carry out their normal activities," he said.