Major security operation for Modi’s first visit to Kashmir in more than five years

 A high-alert security posture has been activated in India’s Kashmir valley ahead of prime minister Narendra Modi’s first visit in more than five years since the federal territory was stripped of its special status.

Top officials of Mr Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Kashmir are making arrangements for his first public rally on Thursday ahead of the high-stakes national elections.

This would mark Mr Modi’s first visit to the valley since February 2019 when he launched a hydro-power station and chaired a security meeting in the region.

More recently, he visited the Hindu-majority Jammu in February to inaugurate a series of development initiatives as he continues to tour various states with his speeches focusing on his government’s work during his two terms in power.

Drone surveillance has been intensified, more checkpoints and barricades set up, and additional security officers mobilized for Mr Modi’s rally.

BJP officials in Kashmir have said that hundreds of thousands of government employees were being mobilised to attend the rally, with party leaders expecting a crowd of around 200,000 people in an apparent bid to project it as a huge success.

However, the Bakshi Stadium where Mr Modi is set to address the rally is a football stadium which can hold only up to 30,000 people, according to reports.

It will be the prime minister’s maiden visit to Kashmir since the central government in August 2019 revoked the special status provided in Article 370 and downgraded its status from a state to a federal territory, bringing it directly under the control of the central government.

The controversial decision was enforced with a months-long lockdown in the region, restricting the movement of the people and shutting down mobile and internet services temporarily.

Kashmir, a Muslim-majority region in northern India bordering Pakistan, has remained under the grips of separatist violence since the early 1990s.

Indian security personnel patrol near the venue where India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to address

Ravinder Raina, president of the Jammu and Kashmir unit of BJP, said Mr Modi will address a massive rally at 10am on Thursday and preparations are underway for the 2024 election in Kashmir.

“On March 7, the Prime Minister is visiting Kashmir. A very big rally has been organised in Srinagar on his visit. I believe that more than 200,000 people are going to participate in this rally. There is a mood of celebration across the Valley,” Mr Raina told a news conference in Srinagar on Tuesday.

Thousands of officials from more than 13 government departments have been asked to send their employees after conducting background checks to confirm they have no association with any militant groups, senior government sources told The Hindu newspaper.

Employees and their families from various departments of the government such as Education, National Rural Livelihood Mission, Agriculture, Rural Development Department, Handicrafts, and others are listed to be included in the rally.

Security outside Bakshi Stadium in Srinagar where Narendra Modi is expected to address a rally

Around 7,000 employees from 13 departments have been asked to attend Mr. Modi’s address, according to one of the lists shared with the departments, it reported. “Security agencies even sought details of spouses and family members and asked if they had any links with militants,” one employee said on the condition of anonymity.

Those asked to join have said they will be picked up by government vehicles at 4am and that strict security arrangements are in place with officials directing them to bring no foot items or bags to the venue.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses a public rally at the Moulana Azad Stadium during which he inaugurated several projects in Jammu in February

“We have been asked to arrive at school premises around 4 a.m. We have been strictly directed not to bring eatables to the venue. Except phones, no bags will be allowed. There is no further direction to us,” one employee who would attend the rally said.

A three-tier security cover is in place in the city, with aerial and ground surveillance intensified to monitor the area for any suspicious activity.

Barricades have been set up, and frequent frisking of private and public vehicles has commenced on all major inter-district roads and within the city of Srinagar.

Some of the high-rise buildings around the stadium have been taken over by security forces for surveillance, and sharpshooters have been positioned to ensure a secure environment, reported Greater Kashmir.

Examinations for high school students also stand cancelled after the dates of some of the scheduled board exams coincided with the 7 March rally.


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