Officials in India-administered Kashmir have published an advisory in a local newspaper warning residents to be prepared for a possible nuclear war by building bomb shelters and other precautions, barely two weeks after deadly border skirmishes.
In an unprecedented move, the Jammu and Kashmir Police Civil Defence and State Disaster Response Force published the advisory on Monday in English language Greater Kashmir daily.
However, local officials said the advisory was routine and that it did not signal new concerns about a nuclear attack in the region.
“If the blast wave does not arrive within five seconds of the flash you were far enough from the ground zero,” stated the notice titled “Protection against Nuclear, Biological & Chemical (NBC) Weapons”.
Fayaz Ahmed, a resident of Srinagar, the main city in the Indian controlled Kashmir said that the notice “is fueling an atmosphere of fear”.
“Educating people is fine but not [in] this brazen way,” he added.
The notice provided vivid details on “do’s” and “don’ts” including the construction of bunkers, which should be stocked with “non-perishable foods and water” and toilet facilities and the storage of “ample candles and battery lights”.
“Expect some initial disorientation as the blast wave may blow down and carry away many prominent and familiar features,” it advised.
‘Ill-timed and inopportune’
In an editorial on Tuesday, Greater Kashmir dubbed the advisory “ill-timed and inopportune”.
“If anything, such advisories at this time while creating needless panic among the people in Jammu and Kashmir could provide grist to the propaganda mill of a section of electronic media which seems to have specialised in blowing smaller issues into big controversies.
“This section of the media ostensibly harbors a visceral hatred for the calm on the borders and the peace between India and Pakistan. Thankfully, the mature political leadership in the country has shown considerable restraint to fall to the jingoistic reportage.”
Yoginder Kaul, inspector-general at the civil defence and state disaster response force, said: “The advisory was part of a normal campaign to educate the public.”
“We routinely train and educate people regarding different natural and man-made disasters and that’s our duty. This advertisement too was part of such a campaign. Please, let’s not read into this beyond that. Let it be clear that this is purely in the nature of educating people and not connected with anything else,” he said.
Ajay Sahni, the executive director of the Institute for Conflict Management in New Delhi think that “there can be no conceivable motive for issuing a notice like this”.
“Such information collected from here and there is not worth the paper it is printed on,” he said, adding that “there can be no preparedness for such an eventuality”.
The notice came barely two weeks after border skirmishes between Indian and Pakistani soldiers along the line of control – the de facto border – in which five soldiers, three of them Pakistani, were killed.
It was the worst violence in the region since 2003, amid heightened tensions between the two countries.
Two of the the three wars fought between the neighbours since its partition have been over the Kashmir region that both countries claim.