More army troops likely to be deployed in Jammu

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Jammu, Aug 8 (UNI) The Army is likely to deploy more troops in the curfew-bound Jammu region to control the prevailing tension over the Amarnath land row, and to counter terrorists' design to disrupt Independence Day celebrations.

Talking to UNI on the sidelines of a press conference here, General Officer Commanding (GOC) IX 'Rising Star' Corps Lt General Vinay Sharma today said, ''More troops will be called in, if the situation doesn't improve.'' The demand for more troops to meet the prolonged unrest in Jammu also arises with August 15 round the corner, and the primary engagement of the existing strength of army in encounter-insurgency operations and the guarding of the border, he hinted.

''There are intelligence inputs that terrorists can take advantage of this violative situation (referring to the massive protests out on the roads) in Jammu, '' Lt General Sharma said.

Besides, diverting columns for internal security purposes from the Indo-Pak International Border in Jammu region, the Yol-based(in Himachal Pradesh ) corps have also mobilised its troops, deployed outside the state, to control the long-drawn agitation.

The IX corps, which falls under the Army, Western Command, defends the international border with Pakistan.

About 45 columns, each having a strength of 100 soldiers, have been deployed in Jammu, in aid of civil administration, after the protests on Amarnath land row took violent turn at several places, reports said.

Describing the agitation as ''historic'' mass movement in Jammu, the Corps Commander who reviewed the overall situation, said ''the protests have registered at right quarters and now it is time for negotiations.'' He maintained that Army would immediately be called back to the barracks as soon as the situation improves in Jammu.

''The economic blockage in Jammu'', has being propogated by Kashmir-based leaders and separatists, Lt General Sharma said ,''Let me clarify that there is nothing sort of 'economic blockage'. Only a few incidents of temporary disruptions on the National Highway were reported.'' Denying the reports of damage to the Kashmir-bound goods, the Corps Commander asserted that there was free movement towards the Kashmir region.

Lt General Sharma, however warned the agitating people of Jammu not to cross the drawn limits which might compel the army to take more forceful steps including firing.

''We are keeping maximun restraints and I appeal to the people that the protests should not turn violent,'' he said.

Army was called in curfew-bound Jammu City on August 2, after the situation slipped out of the hands of the civil administration.

Army has cut roadlinks to Jammu city as a preventive measure to ensure curfew and is continuing the flag march. Despite all restrictions, people are defying curfew to hold demontrations in the region.

So far, eight protesters have lost their lives in various incidents in Jammu region, which is witnessing a massive movement for the restoration of forestland to Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) in south Kashmir.

UNI VJ RSA BD1535

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