April 1998 News


India bolsters security to stop Kashmir migration

22nd April 1998

JAMMU: India has stepped up security in terror-struck parts of Kashmir after villagers started to flee their homes, officials said on Wednesday.

Suspected separatist guerrillas on Friday shot dead 29 people, mostly Hindus, in Dhakikot, about 185 km (115 miles) from Jammu, the winter capital of Jammu and Kashmir state.

The massacre, the second of its sort this year, triggered mass migration from the remote village.

"The deployment of forces has been made to instil confidence in these people and to ensure early return of them to their respective homes," state government spokesman K.B. Jandial told Reuters.

About 1,000 people left Dhakikot and surrounding villages and moved to safer parts of the state in the first flush of migration, Farooq Abdullah, chief minister of the troubled province, told the state assembly.

State government officials said on Wednesday there had been no reports of a fresh exodus from the troubled villages.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack on the remote Kashmiri village, but Abdullah pointed the finger at India's arch-rival, Pakistan, for continuing to push arms and men across the border into Kashmir.

India, which controls two-thirds of Kashmir, has repeatedly accused Pakistan of stoking the eight-year rebellion in the Himalayan region.

Pakistan, which controls the rest of Kashmir, says it only offers moral and diplomatic support to the rebels.

Jammu and Kashmir government officials said 3.5 million rupees ($88,000) had been set aside for payment and rehabilitation measures for the victims of last week's attack.

Home Minister Lal Krishna Advani, back from a trip to the site of the killings, said it was important that people went back to their homes.

"I have impressed upon them that they must return to their homes at the earliest...we will do everything, including redeployment of security forces, to ensure this," Advani said earlier this week.

The killings shattered a fragile peace that authorities had said had returned to the Himalayan province after years of bloody separatist rebellion.

More than 25,000 people have been killed in Jammu and Kashmir since the rebellion in India's only Moslem-majority state started in 1990.


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