Kashmir’s conclave of militants on Thursday announced that its 13 rebel groups would abide by an international agreement and never use landmines, and urged a ban on them in Jammu and Kashmir as a confidence building measure.
The United Jihad Council said in a declaration signed by its chief Syed Salahuddin in Muzaffarabad that its members had never used anti-personnel landmines, which are widely planted on the frontier by the armies of India and Pakistan.
However, the Indian Army has said it recovered more than 100 landmines from the militants in 2005-6. It is unclear whether the rebels have used them in Kashmir.
“UJC members are thought to have made only limited use of anti-personnel mines in the past,” the International Campaign to Ban Landmines said in a statement from Geneva, circulated to journalists in Kashmir.
Militants in Kashmir often use improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Together, both landmines and IEDs have killed more than 10,000 people in the state since the insurgency broke out in 1989.
Other militant groups in India, including Naxalites in several states, and rebel groups in the northeast, use landmines.
“The UJC’s pledge is yet another sign of the growing acceptance of the norm which prohibits anti-personnel mines because of their indiscriminate nature,” Sylvie Brigot, executive director of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, said in a statement sent to the media in Kashmir.
“We now encourage both India and Pakistan to consider a moratorium on new mine use and to launch comprehensive mine clearance programmes,” Brigot said. Hundreds of thousands of landmines are believed to have been deployed on both sides of the border.
The declaration was signed on October 16 in Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, and announced in Geneva on Thursday. The UJC includes 13 Kashmiri militant groups. Five other non-Kashmiri groups have “observer” status and UJC directives are binding upon them.
“We…are determined to put an end to the suffering and casualties caused by anti-personnel mines, that have killed or maimed countless people within Jammu & Kashmir, frequently civilians and especially children, obstruct economic development and have left thousands of people of Jammu & Kashmir internally displaced persons,” the Jihad Council declaration said.
The UJC is a conglomerate of 13 militant groups, including Hizbul Mujahideen, Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen, Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen and Harkatul Jihad-i-Islami. Its observer members are Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, Jaish-e-Muhamad, Al-Badr, Hizb-i-Islami, and Harkatul Mujahideen.
“The use of anti-personnel mines is equivalent to blind terror, and the use of anti-personnel mines is prohibited under Islam,” the Jihad Council said. “We acknowledge that a total ban of anti-personnel mines would also be an important confidence-building measure both within Jammu & Kashmir, as well as internationally."
But the Jihad Council did not promise an end to the use of IEDs.
“We may continue to use command detonated weapons against military targets,” Salahuddin’s declaration said.