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Arrival of more Indian soldiers in Kashmir triggers fears

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Arrival of a large number of Indian paramilitary soldiers into the Indian-administered Kashmir during the past week has fueled speculations and fears in the region still reeling from the aftermath of Aug. 5, 2019 decision, when India scrapped its autonomy, the Anadolu News Agency reported Monday.

On the main highway that connects Kashmir with India, long convoys of buses carrying paramilitary soldiers and trucks carrying supplies have been streaming into the disputed valley for the past several days.

Press Trust of India has quoted officials as saying that over 280 companies of security forces are in the process of being deployed in the Kashmir valley.

The security forces, mostly CRPF personnel, are being deployed in vulnerable spots in the city and other parts of the valley, the Central Armed Paramilitary Forces (CAPFs) the PTI said.

However, no reason was given for the sudden deployment of over 280 companies (28,000 troops) late in the evening, the PTI said, adding: All major entry and exit points of the capital Srinagar have been taken over by the Central Armed Paramilitary Forces (CAPFs) with token presence of local police.

Local residents have started panic-buying essentials as they are linking the deployment of forces to apprehension of deterioration in the law-and-order situation.

Speculations fueled by the fresh arrivals range from the further division of the region to the escalation of border tensions between India and China in Ladakh, the Anadolu said.

On Aug. 5, 2019, the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir was divided and downgraded into two centrally-ruled territories of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir. Viral social-media messages talk of a number of possible ways Jammu and Kashmir could be divided into a Muslim-majority Kashmir and Hindu-majority Jammu and their administrative status thereof.

Abhiram Pankaj, the Srinagar-based spokesman of the Central Reserve Police Force, India's largest paramilitary force that controls the streets in Kashmir, told Anadolu Agency that the reinforcements are meant for strengthening security for the upcoming pilgrimage to the cave shrine of Amarnath in southern Kashmir.

"Only a small number of the forces who had returned to other states after 2019 has arrived in Kashmir. The local administration only wants to be ready for yatra (pilgrimage) if it happens this year," he said.

The 42-day pilgrimage is scheduled to begin on June 23. Last year, it was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But officials are yet to make a final decision on this year's yatra. In 2019, the Indian government had cited the threat to the pilgrims as the reason for canceling it midway, while sending in more soldiers to control the backlash.

Kashmir is administered by India and Pakistan in parts. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China.

Since they were partitioned in 1947, the two countries have fought three wars -- in 1948, 1965 and 1971 -- with two of them over Kashmir.

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
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