Amid claims of security lapse at Bharat Jodo Yatra, the Jammu and Kashmir administration on Friday said pressure on security resources due to the size of the crowd larger than planned may have created an impression of lack of security arrangements during the Rahul Gandhi-led foot march. It also asserted that all security arrangements have been made for the ongoing Yatra as the government is “totally mindful of the safety concerns”.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Friday cancelled his walk as part of the Bharat Jodo Yatra for the day after it entered Kashmir Valley, with the party alleging a security lapse and claiming the police arrangements by the Union territory administration “completely collapsed”.
Gandhi, who began his yatra from Banihal in Jammu region, crossed the Jawahar tunnel into the Valley in Qazigund in a bulletproof vehicle but could walk for barely 500 meters after that. He was asked by his security team to stop given the absence of police personnel to manage the large crowd that had gathered to receive him.
“In a very challenging and special event like this, the government is totally mindful of the security concerns. Nevertheless, all security arrangements have been made to ensure best possible security for the ongoing Bharat Jodo Yatra,” Additional Chief Secretary (home) R K Goyal told reporters here.
“… the size of the crowd (which came from Banihal belt of Jammu towards Kashmir) became larger than planned. That led to the pressure on the security resources, which may have created an impression that security arrangements were not in place,” he said.
The senior official added that the matter was highlighted in a press conference in Kashmir on Friday. “This has been taken note of with all the seriousness that it deserved,” he said.
Goyal said as per the agreed arrangements between police and organisers of the Yatra, only identified crowd after being frisked were allowed to be part of the core of the march.
“It has been learnt that contrary to the arrangements worked out between the security establishment and the march organisers, a large portion of the crowd from the Banihal side, who were supposed to return to Banihal, rushed to the Kashmir side,” he said.
He said needless to say, the security resources were deployed visualising the size of the anticipated crowd after a discussion with the Yatra organisers.
“… there are two components of the Yatra. One is the participants always travelling with Rahul Gandhi and the other is the local component, which becomes part of the Yatra in different days in different stretches,” he said.
The additional chief secretary said participants of the previous sector do not join the succeeding stretch.
“In this particular case, the organisers themselves had neither anticipated nor planned the Banihal crowd to join the Kashmir stretch. Because of this, the size of the crowd became larger than planned,” he said.
Having said that, Goyal noted that “15 companies of paramilitary force and 10 companies of J-K Police were in deployment as we speak”. He added that the 200 kilometer-long walk between Lakhanpur to Banihal through several districts — Kathua, Samba, Jammu, Udhampur and Ramban — and spread over six days was secured by deploying a combination of the CRPF and J-K police to cover the route, places of stay and venues where public gathering have been planned.
The Congress accused the government of withdrawing security personnel from around Gandhi as the Yatra reached near Qazigund, and demanded action against those responsible for the alleged security breach.
The Jammu and Kashmir Police, however, rejected the charge and said there was no security lapse at the Yatra and that the organisers had not informed the police about a large crowd joining the march from Banihal.