The Union Home Ministry has already withdrawn three CRPF battalions (about 3,150 men) from Jammu and Kashmir and shifted them to Chhattisgarh during the last one month, while four more are likely to leave the state soon.
The withdrawal of the paramilitary forces from counter-insurgency duty follows the shifting of 15,000 troops from the twin border districts of Rajouri and Poonch in October.
Home Minister P. Chidambaram asserted on Wednesday that a large chunk of the paramilitary forces would be withdrawn from Kashmir. A state government official, who did not wish to be identified, said this was being done to strengthen the forces against Maoists and to give a frontline counter-insurgency role to the state police.
The Army, however, made it clear that there would be no further troop reduction in near future because of increased infiltration and the presence of more than 700 terrorists in the state.
But Jammu-based public relations officer of the army Lt Col Biplab Nath said, “These are operational matters, the details of which could not be divulged.”
Earlier, Kashmir police chief Kuldeep Khoda said several times that the state police force were capable of dealing with militancy. He said, “More than 900 policemen have sacrificed their lives while fighting militancy.”
About 18,000 civilians and security personnel have been killed so far in militancy-related violence in Jammu and Kashmir.
The state government official said the timing of the Home Minister’s announcement was important for the separatists, especially the moderate faction of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.
He said through this step, the Home Minister assured the Mirwaiz that his concerns were being taken care of.
The Mirwaiz demanded the withdrawal of troops, the repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and the release of prisoners among the conditions for beginning a dialogue with the Centre.
Both Chidambaram and the Mirwaiz are votaries of “quiet dialogue and quiet diplomacy.”