Srinagar: A multi-layered security apparatus has been put in place to ensure incident-free Republic Day celebrations in Jammu and Kashmir amid suspected terror threat on "soft targets" in the state and US President Barack Obama's landmark three-day visit to India.
Jammu and Kashmir Governor NN Vohra will take the salute tomorrow at Maulana Azad Memorial Stadium in Jammu, which has been put under multi-tier security and made out of bound for any civilian movement after being sanitised by sniffer dogs.
"The threat is very much there, but we are fully prepared to deal with any eventuality," Jammu and Kashmir Director General of Police K Rajendra Kumar told PTI.
"We have strengthened security pickets in the minority areas in the Valley. Security along the border has also been tightened, all the infiltration routes have been barricaded and have set up check posts at every sensitive position," he added.
Security agencies in the state have been maintaining tight vigil in view of Obama's visit to take part in tomorrow's Republic Day function in New Delhi as a Chief Guest.
There were apprehensions that Pakistan-backed militants might try to repeat a 'Chittisingpora type of massacre' in the state.
Lashker-e-Toiba (LeT) militants had gunned down 36 members of the Sikh community in Chittisinghpora village of South Kashmir on March 20, 2000 on the eve the visit of then US President Bill Clinton.
The J&K DGP said that while the "known suspects" have been kept under surveillances, the quick reaction teams of the police have been kept ready.
"Night domination patrols have been increased and every possible step is being taken to maintain high alert," Kumar said.
Heavy security blanket has been imposed at the MAM stadium as the main function is going to be held there and large number of people are expected to attend the event.
The venue has been sealed from all sides with security men taking positions on flyovers, banks of river Tawi and residential areas surrounding the stadium after conduction massive search and sanitisation operation with sniffer dogs in and around the stadium.
Meanwhile in the Kashmir Valley, special security check points have been set up at all entry and exit points into the city and major towns, where random frisking of pedestrians and checking of vehicles is being carried out to keep militants at bay, a senior police official said.
In addition, sharp shooters have been deployed in the close vicinity of Bakshi Stadium, the main venue of Republic Day function in the Valley, the officer said, adding CCTV cameras are being monitored round the clock.
Business activities in the popular weekly flea market in Srinagar were affected today due to the security arrangements as police did not allow the vendors to set up their stalls.
Almost all separatists including leaders of different factions of Hurriyat Conference have called for observance of "black day" on January 26 to press for early resolution of Kashmir issue.
Chief of Al Umar Mujahideen Mushtaq Ahmad Zargar alias Latram, who was one of the three militants released in exchange of passengers of hijacked Indian Airlines plane in 1999, also called for strike.
In 1995, serial blasts had occurred in MAM Stadium in Jammu during the Republic Day function. While 15 persons were killed, the then governor Lt Gen K V Krishna Rao had a narrow escape. Even the Bakhshi Stadium in Srinagar had come under rocket attack on Republic Day in 1993.
"Security along the sensitive places including temples, Jammu airport, railways station and venue has been increased and sniffer dogs have been pressed into service to track any explosive and other such things," DGP Kumar said.
All the entry and exit points to Jammu city have been sealed and all incoming vehicles are being screened before being allowed into city. Thorough frisking is also being conducted at dozens of checkpoints in the city.
A senior army officer, on condition of anonymity, said, "In wake of the inputs that 200 terrorists were waiting in 36 launch pads across the border in Jammu region to infiltrate and carry out attacks on soft targets in the state, nothing can be left on chance, we are alert and won't let a repeat of the unfortunate incident of 2000."
The schools in Jammu region have been put on high alert and to inform police of any suspicious movement, while the schools run by Army, BSF and IAF besides Kendra Vidhalayas had been closed last week.
"We have asked schools to maintain a high alert and to dial 100 to inform the nearby police control room van, if they notice any suspicious movement," Deputy Inspector General of Police Jammu Kathua Ranger Shakeel Ahmed Beigh said.
He said that the number of quick reaction teams (QRT) of police has been increased and a large number of PCR vans have been deployed on strategic locations across the Jammu region.
"QRT have been deployed, PCR Vans have been places on all the strategic locations across the Jammu region," Beigh said.
The J&K Director General Police has also asked security agencies to maintain high alert along the border of Jammu and Srinagar and the national highway.
Kumar also advised them to share intelligence inputs in this regard and start joint patrolling of all the security formations.
Security agencies along the International Border and the Line of Control have intensified vigil in wake of intelligence inputs that BATs, which are small groups of specialised Pakistani troops supported at times by militants, could strike in the run up to Republic Day.
"As per intelligence inputs there is a possibility of Pakistan Army's Border Action Team (BAT) crossing over into Indian Territory and targeting posts," a senior Army officer said.
BAT could also target Indian patrol parties near the LoC, he said, adding that army is keeping a close watch on LoC.
"Any such BAT action by Pakistani with covering fire from its border posts would be counted as diplomatic offencive to rake up Kashmir issue," the officer said.
Asked about possible militant attacks along LoC, spokesperson of Udhampur-based Northern Command Headquarters, Col S D Goswami told PTI that troops are vigilant.
The BAT generally targets patrol teams or isolated posts across the LoC.
"BAT operations are specialised military actions conducted in close vicinity of enemy posts across the LoC and need detailed planning preparation and support," Col Goswami said.
Along IB, the BSF has put troops under high alert and deployed 1,200 additional security men in sensitive areas and to plug the gaps in bid to enhance the security along IB and foil any infiltration bid.