Army, police draw up new strategy to counter protests

Security forces said they have drawn up a new plan to tackle deadly unrest in Kashmir as the government came under fire today over its handling of the crisis. The army, police and paramilitary forces formulated a "joint strategy" to restore peace in the Valley. The problem is Delhi | See cartoon

india Updated: Sep 16, 2010 14:19 IST

Security forces said they have drawn up a new plan to tackle deadly unrest in disputed Kashmir as the government came under fire on Thursday over its handling of the crisis.

The army, police and paramilitary forces formulated a "joint strategy" at a meeting on Wednesday to restore peace in the disputed Himalayan region where more than 90 anti-India protesters have been shot dead in three months of violence.

"The meeting discussed the measures to effectively counter the protest calendar," a statement by the military said, referring to a list of demonstrations set by separatists in the region.

No details were given about the action plan, which is to be implemented immediately.

The death toll from three months of unrest rose to 94 on Thursday after the cousin of top separatist Yasin Malik died of injuries suffered in a clash last month, Malik's spokesman told AFP.

In New Delhi, the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh faced criticism from several commentators after a five-hour crisis meeting between political leaders held in the capital on Wednesday.

The meeting broke up with a decision to send a fact-finding mission to the Muslim-majority area, which is jointly administered by India and Pakistan and an enduring source of tension between the nuclear-armed neighbours.

"Wars are won and insurrection defeated by leaders, not committees," wrote commentator Manoj Joshi in the Mail Today newspaper.

"The Manmohan Singh government seems bent on defying this logic."

Samar Halarnkar, writing in the Hindustan Times, said "the all-party meeting in Delhi has utterly failed to address the (Kashmir) valley's realities."

He warned of a two-decade insurgency in Kashmir getting a new lease of life unless the grievances of local people are addressed. Militant-led violence has fallen to its lowest level since fighting erupted in 1989.

The Express newspaper was more supportive of the government, saying that "no one would have expected the all-party meeting to end with a concrete consensus on how to move forward."

It said the fact-finding mission was "welcome" and an indication that the nation's political energy was directed "towards dealing with one of India's most intractable problems."

Separatists in Kashmir dismissed the delegation, which will reportedly visit at the weekend, and stressed that no mainstream political leader or member of government has visited the region since the protests began.

All major towns in Kashmir remained under curfew on Thursday for the fifth day. There was no report of violence during the night, police said.

The embattled chief minister of Kashmir, Omar Abdullah, won vocal backing from the influential Gandhi dynasty, which continues to dominate Indian politics.

Rahul Gandhi, the youth leader of the ruling Congres party and presumed prime-minister-in-waiting, said the Kashmiri leader was doing a "tough job."

"Kashmir is a tough and sensitive job and I think we have to give Omar time and support," he told reporters in the eastern city of Kolkata, where he was drumming up support for Congress ahead of regional elections.

For three months young Kashmiris have thrown stones at security forces and rallied against Indian rule in the region.

Since the weekend, arson and mob attacks have risen, apparently fuelled by reports about the desecration of the Koran by a small group of Christians in Washington on Saturday.

First Published: Sep 16, 2010 13:14 IST