'Kashmiri militants giving up arms'
16 April 2006
The Daily Times
Srinagar: India’s most senior army general in Jammu and Kashmir said on Sunday that militants based in Pakistani-held Kashmir have been giving up arms and returning to their homes in Indian-held Kashmir, following last year’s South Asian earthquake. “It is not that they (militants) have been able to come with any great ease,” Lieutenant General SS Dhillon told Reuters in an interview. “They have surreptitiously come till the Line of Control and then surrendered. “It is a new trend, it is definitely a different trend and it is an encouraging trend.” Dhillon, the head of the Indian army’s 15 Corps, said dozens of militants, including some senior “commanders”, had surrendered since the Oct 8 quake which killed more than 73,000 people in Pakistani Kashmir and 1,300 on the Indian side. “The people who surrendered are basically disillusioned with their life across the LoC so they have decided to return to their homes,” Dhillon said at army headquarters in Srinagar. Militants who surrender in the valley are taken to army camps and questioned and then handed over to police. Officers give them security clearance but keep them under surveillance However, a spokesman of a leading separatist group derided the Indian army’s claims. “It is a drama, all fake. They (the Indian army) are making these claims to hoodwink the international community,” said Saif-ul- lah, an aide of Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the head of a breakaway faction of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC). Dhillon said it was likely that the “terrorist infrastructure” had been repaired. “I think the test of what Pakistan has said will be evident this summer,” Dhillon said, referring to Islamabad’s claims. Acknowledging that there had been no attempts by militants so far this year to cross over into Indian-held Kashmir from the Pakistani side, he warned that rebel incursions could “pick up” as snow melted on high mountain passes. “Whether they (Pakistani army) assisted the infiltration, whether they abetted the infiltration, whether they helped them, I can’t say. But I certainly can say that they knew about that infiltration (last year),” the general said. The army general said that due to a continuous offensive by Indian security forces, the number of militants operating in the disputed territory had fallen by 40 percent since India and Pakistan launched a peace process in 2004. “But not withstanding the positive environment in the valley, the ability of the terrorists to carry out a sensational operation . . . they still retain that capability,” Dhillon added.