Security has been tightened across Srinagar ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s maiden election rally Monday as thousands of security personnel fanned out across the city with all roads leading to the venue sealed off.
The PM is visiting Kashmir days after terrorists struck an Indian Army camp and other targets, including Srinagar, across the state Friday that left at least 21 people dead.
Security forces had killed two Lashker-e-Taiba (LeT) militants when they were trying to infiltrate into Srinagar from the outskirts at Soura.
Modi is scheduled to arrive in Srinagar around 12.30pm and address the rally at Sher-i-Kashmir Cricket stadium amid a three-tier security cordon. He has chosen same spot from which former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee reached out to people of Kashmir in 2003.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, which does not have a strong base in the Valley, is trying to ensure that Modi’s rally is a success and has made arrangements to bring in people from different parts of Kashmir.
The BJP held a Shikara rally on the Dal lake on Sunday and made phone calls to individuals to ensure an impressive audience for the PM’s rally.
“We have been able to reach out to more than 15 lakh people on the phone, through social networking sites and personal campaigning,” said Megha Somaiya, who has been running BJP’s Srinagar campaign to invite people for a month now.
PM Modi hopes to boost his party’s prospects in the ongoing assembly polls, where the BJP aims to win more than 44 seats.
Modi, sources said, will focus on the Valley youth and stress on the development plank to create a space for the party.
“To describe the PM’s visit just as a milestone will be an understatement. It is a turning point for Kashmir,” she said.
Hardline Hurriyat Conference chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani has called for a shutdown to protest the visit of the PM.
Hundreds of security personnel – armed with metal detectors and accompanied by sniffer dogs – are in place in and around the stadium.
Sharpshooters have been posted on rooftops at vantage points like Suliman Tang and Rustam Gali in the Dalgate area to secure the area and neutralise any threat.
Several helicopters have also been pressed into service as part of security drill.
Concertina wires have been laid at several intersections in city’s Dalgate, Sonawar, Gupkar Road and TRC Crossing to block the movement of vehicles and people towards the stadium.
A posse of policemen and CRPF personnel have been deployed at each intersection to ensure the security drill is followed in letter and spirit, a senior police officer said.
In other parts of the city, motor vehicle checking points have been established by security forces for checking the vehicles moving around. The intelligence agencies and police have been directed to keep an eye on the suspected persons, the officer said.
Barricades have also been set up at the entry points to the city to ensure that militants are not able to sneak in to carry out any act of sabotage, he added.
The PM is scheduled to address two election rallies in Srinagar and Anantnag towns of the Valley as part of the election campaign for his party’s candidates. Polls in these areas will be held on December 14.
Besides the two rallies, PM Modi will address four more poll gatherings. On December 12 he will address the rallies at Rajouri and Kathua. On December 16, he will also address two more rallies in Jammu and another in between Billawar and Basholi constituencies.
Jammu and Kashmir recorded a voter turnout of 71% in the second of the five-phase assembly elections held on Tuesday.
(With inputs from PTI)