'Violence in Kashmir dips to record low'
The violence in Kashmir has fallen to its lowest level since militants launched a revolt some 20 years ago, officials said Monday, but warned there would be no complacency.india Updated: Aug 31, 2009 12:06 IST
The violence in Kashmir has fallen to its lowest level since militants launched a revolt some 20 years ago, officials said Monday, but warned there would be no complacency.
Killings have dropped to one a day, from ten daily in 2001 and a peak of 13 in 1996 when the insurgency against government rule was at its high with daily bomb attacks and gunbattles, according to official police records in Kashmir.
"The militant violence has fallen to an all-time low," a police officer told AFP, requesting not to be named as he was not authorised to talk to the media.
He said during the first seven months of 2009, some 195 people -- 113 militants, 45 civilians and 37 security personnel -- were killed in the region.
"For the first time since 1989, the daily death toll has dropped to one," the officer said, referring to the year when the separatist revolt began in the Muslim-majority Himalayan region.
The levels of violence declined sharply after India and Pakistan, whose territorial dispute over Kashmir has triggered two wars, embarked on a peace process in 2004.
The process was suspended in the wake of the militant attacks last November on India's financial capital Mumbai and the past few months have witnessed renewed clashes between security forces and protesters, as well as fresh incidents of militant infiltration from Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.
Indian officials also attribute the drop to India's fencing of the border between the two countries and what they say are more effective counter-insurgency tactics.
The insurgency has left more than 47,000 people dead, according to official figures. Human rights groups put the toll at 70,000 dead and disappeared.
Despite the easing of violence, Indian Kashmir's senior minister Ali Mohammed Sagar opposed any reduction in Indian troop levels in the state, a key demand of main opposition Peoples Democratic Party or PDP.
"Troops will be reduced and sent back to barracks once the situation is under total control," he said, and warned that it was not wise to "lower our guard as some incidents (of violence) were still taking place."
India has an estimated half-million troops and paramilitary soldiers in Kashmir.
Top security officials said militants were still infiltrating into Kashmir from the Pakistani-zone of the divided state.
"This year over 70 militants have managed to cross into Kashmir against 45 in the corresponding period last year," Lieutenant General PC Bharadwaj told reporters last week.
He said the army has prevented some two dozen attempts by militants to cross into Kashmir this year. "We have killed 57 militants while foiling their attempts to enter our territory," he said.
He noted that the biggest challenge before the army was to restore peace, maintain it and put the state on the path to development.