Sign of peace, sigh of relief

Semi Column

Bunkers of security forces have always been grim reminders of the tension in the Kashmir valley. So, when over a dozen CRPF personnel, assisted by local labourers, recently started removing tin sheets and barbed wire to dismantle one of the oldest bunkers at Srinagar's prominent business hub Amira Kadal, it was seen as yet another step by the government to minimise footprints of the security forces in the summer capital.

In fact, removal of the CRPF bunkers has come at a time when the local tourism industry is on revival path. The Valley has already registered footfalls of over a million tourists.

Over the past 12 months, the CRPF, which along with Special Operations Group of J&K Police is tasked to handle counter insurgency operations in the city, has tried to reduce its visibility in the city. It has removed 45 such bunkers, which dotted the main markets or streets of the city. The people in these areas have heaved a sigh of relief these structures were often points of friction between the security forces and the civilians and a cause of resentment.

The houses that CRPF used as barracks during the past two decades of turmoil have now been replenished or refurbished either as shopping malls, nursing homes or hotels and guest houses by the locals. The authorities are also hopeful more such bunkers will go in the coming months.

In fact, the process to remove or shift the CRPF bunkers began two years ago after the government quelled the 2010 civilian unrest that claimed 110 lives. Majority of those killed were targeted near the CRPF bunkers, not only in Srinagar but in rural areas as well. Mainstream parties as well as separatists had been pressing for the removal of bunkers from the civilian areas. The moderate separatists, led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, put it as one of the pre-conditions for resumption of dialogue with New Delhi.

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