New Delhi : Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Friday alleged that police arrangement "completely collapsed" during Bharat Jodo Yatra on Friday in Jammu and Kashmir and he had "to cancel" his walk.
Senior Congress leaders also alleged that security during had been "mishandled by concerned agencies" on Friday. However, Jammu and Kashmir Police dismissed the allegations of security lapse in the Bharat Jodo Yatra which entered the Valley on Friday.
The Police said steps had been taken to ensure the best possible security for the ongoing Bharat Jodo Yatra and organisers and managers did not intimate about a large gathering from Banihal joining the Yatra, which thronged near the starting point.
BJP leader Gaurav Bhatia accused Rahul Gandhi of making misleading allegations against the security agencies.
"It has become Rahul Gandhi's habit to make baseless allegations. He has made wrong allegations against Kashmir Police. It appears that cheap politics is being practiced," he said.
Rahul Gandhi, who briefly addressed a press briefing at Khanabal in Anantnag, said there was a large crowd and it is important that the police manage it.
"This morning, we had quite a large crowd that had gathered and we were looking forward to walking on the Bharat Jodo Yatra, but, unfortunately, the police arrangement completely collapsed and the police people, who were supposed to manage the crowd and hold the rope, were nowhere to be seen," Gandhi said.
"So, my security people were very uncomfortable with me walking further on the yatra. So, I had to cancel my walk. The other yatris, of course, did the walk. I think, it is important that the police manage the crowd, so that we can do the yatra. It is very difficult for me to go against, what my security people are recommending," he added.
The Jammu and Kashmir administration said that the size of the crowd was larger than planned. Addressing a press conference, RK Goyal, Additional Chief Secretary (FC), Home Department of Jammu and Kashmir, said the government is acutely mindful of security concerns and all arrangements have been made to ensure the best possible security for the ongoing Bharat Jodo Yatra.
"The size of the crowd was larger than planned which led to the pressure on the available security resources and created the impression that security arrangements were not in place. However, 15 companies of paramilitary forces and 10 companies of J-K police were deployed," said Goyal.
He further said a large portion of the crowd from the Banihal side who were supposed to have returned to Banihal rushed to the Kashmir side.
"Contrary to arrangements worked out between Bharat Jodo yatra organizers and security establishment, a large portion of the crowd from Banihal side who were supposed to have returned to Banihal rushed to Kashmir side," he said.
"The size of the crowd was larger than planned which led to the pressure on the available security resources & created the impression that security arrangements were not in place. However, 15 companies of paramilitary forces & 10 companies of J-K police were deployed," he added.
Dismissing the Congress allegations, Kashmir Zone Police said that only authorized persons who were identified by organisers were allowed on the route of the yatra.
The police said that the organizers of the yatra did not inform about the large gathering from Banihal.
"Only authorised persons as identified by organisers and frisked crowd was allowed inside towards the route of Yatra. Organisers and managers of BJY did not intimate about large gathering from Banihal joining the Yatra, which thronged near the starting point," Kashmir Zone Police said in a tweet.
The police said that full security arrangements were in place. "Full security arrangements were in place including 15 Coys of CAPFs and 10 Coys of JKP, comprising of ROPs and QRTs, route domination, lateral deployment and SFs were deployed for high-ridge and other deployments".
"JKP was not consulted before taking any decision on discontinuation of Yatra after conducting 1 km yatra by organizers. Rest of yatra continued peacefully. There was no security lapse at all. We will provide foolproof security," the police added.
Congress leader Jairam Ramesh accused the government of playing with security of Congress leader.
"Politics has its place but by playing with the security of Rahul Gandhi in the Kashmir valley, the government has stooped to its lowest level. India has already lost Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, any government or administration should desist from doing politics on such matters," he said in a tweet.
Party leader KC Venugopal alleged that security had been "mishandled by concerned agencies". "For 15 mins, there have been no security officers with the Bharat Jodo Yatra here. This is a serious lapse. Rahul Gandhi and other yatris can not walk without security," Venugopal told the media.
"The sudden withdrawal of security personnel from the D-area has caused a serious security breach at the Bharat Jodo Yatra at Banihal, Kashmir. Who ordered this? The authorities responsible must answer for this lapse and take appropriate steps to prevent such incidents in future," Venugopal tweeted.
Rahul Gandhi-led Bharat Jodo Yatra, which is in its final leg in Jammu and Kashmir, resumed on Friday morning from the National Highway-44, Banihal Railway station, in the UT's Ramban district.
Security was tightened in the area in the wake of the recent twin blasts on the outskirts of Jammu city on January 22 which rocked a busy locality in Narwal leaving atleast nine people injured.
The Bharat Jodo Yatra, which started in Kanyakumari on September 7, will conclude on January 30 in Srinagar after covering 3,970 km, 12 states and two Union territories. (ANI)