Firmly backing the state government in dealing with the violence in the Kashmir valley, the Centre today said that anti-national forces that were fomenting trouble were clearly linked to Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Tayiba.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh chaired a high-level meeting on Wednesday to review the situation in the Valley which has witnessed stone-pelting and attacks on security forces for the past six days during which five people have lost their lives when fired upon by security personnel. Home Minister P Chidambaram, Defence Minister A K Antony and top officials were present.
The Centre's approach to the situation is two-pronged, the security forces should exercise maximum restraint but people should not violate the curfew wherever it has been imposed.
"We will support the state government in restoring the law and order situation. I hope the situation will come under control in the next few days," Chidambaram told a media briefing here.
Asked who were the anti-national elements involved in the trouble, the home minister said the "anti-national elements are clearly linked to the LeT which is active in Sopore area."
Two militants belonging to the LeT were killed in an operation in the Sopore area few days ago, he pointed out.
The meeting appreciated the statement of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Tuesday appealing for calm and asking people not to allow their children to violate the law.
"The chief minister's statement has been reasonable, clear and firm. We have instructed the para-military forces to exercise maximum restraint in dealing with stone-pelters and also asked the chief minister and his ministers to visit the disturbed areas," Chidambaram said.
The press conference was delayed by an hour as Chidambaram had to attend an emergency meeting called by Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on Wednesday afternoon to review the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.
"At some places, the CRPF fired rubber bullets and they did so in self-defence. We have asked the parents to keep the children away because most of them are misguided by the terrorists," he said.
Referring to the annual Amarnath pilgrimage that commences on Thursday, the home minister said that the government was committed to providing full protection to the pilgrims.
"We had taken adequate steps to see to it that the Amarnath Yatra passes off peacefully. We will not allow any impediment in the Yatra and sufficient number of security personnel would be deployed to give full protection to the pilgrims," he said.
The home minister said no one in Jammu and Kashmir should allow himself or herself to be misguided and violate curfew.
The Central government also advised the chief minister and his cabinet colleagues to visit disturbed areas so that there is political activity along with normal policing.
"We are confident that the state government will be able to ensure peaceful completion of the Amarnath yatra and that nothing may disrupt the yatra," he said.
He said the state government was dealing with a sensitive situation in Jammu and Kashmir.
Chidambaram said many of the young boys participating in the protests were misled by vested interests and asked the parents to keep them inside their homes.
Presenting the monthly report of his ministry, the home minister said Jammu and Kashmir witnessed a revival of stone-pelting and attacks on security forces.
"Beginning June 11, eleven civilian lives have been lost. In the same period, 53 personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force have been injured, many of them seriously. An inspector and a jawan of the CRPF have received bullet injuries.
"Yesterday, I made a statement on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and that statement may be read as part of this report. We have reiterated the instructions to the security forces to adopt maximum restraint while dealing with rioting crowds or stone-pelters. However, the Central Government remains committed to support the State Government in restoring law and order," he said.
Asked whether there was any move to amend the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, he said that the home ministry had submitted a proposal before the cabinet committee on security and as and when any decision would taken, it will be made public.
With PTI inputs