New Delhi: Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Sunday met Jammu and Kashmir governor Satya Pal Malik in Srinagar to discuss the security situation in the state, as the centre prepares to hold municipal and village local body elections.
Accompanied by Indian Army chief general Bipin Rawat, Sitharaman was on a day-long visit to the state, which has been under governor’s rule since June, when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) decided to exit the coalition government with the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
J&K municipal elections are slated be held across four phases between 1 and 5 October, while the panchayat polls will take place across eight phases from 8 November to 4 December. News reports say that terrorist groups active in the state have warned political parties and voters to stay away from the polls.
“There was a discussion on the security situation in the state, including internal and external factors. As you know, there have been some targeted terrorist attacks—at members of the security forces and their families. There has been some unrest in the state and firing across the border. There was a general review of the situation and security preparedness," said a person familiar with the development, requesting anonymity.
Kashmir has seen several protests in recent months over Article 35 A of the Constitution, which empowers the Kashmir legislature to determine permanent residents and give them various special rights, while imposing restrictions on others in respect of jobs, land acquisition, settling in the state and other forms of aid. It is opposed by a section of people who say that it is discriminatory towards Kashmiri women. The matter is now being heard by the Supreme Court.
During her visit, Sitharaman also visited the Balbir forward post in Kupwara district, along with General Rawat. She met the troops of the 28th Infantry Division, according to pictures posted on the minister’s Twitter handle.
India has accused Pakistan of violating a 2003 ceasefire pact and shelling border posts, a charge Pakistan denies while accusing India of resorting to unprovoked firing. India says that Pakistan resorts to firing to push in terrorists it has trained from across the border. According to a senior Indian official, New Delhi is keeping a close eye on terrorist attacks, targeting Kashmiri Police and Army men in recent months. “There seems to be a deliberate targeting of these people," the official added.