May 2006 News

Singh asks militants to return

24 May 2006
The Dawn

Srinagar: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appealed on Wednesday to ‘Kashmiri militants in Pakistan’ to “come home”, at the same time telling his troops to be more humane as he pressed forward with peace talks. Despite some of the tightest security in years in one of the world’s most militarised cities, rebels set off five grenades in Srinagar, injuring at least 19 civilians and nine policemen. None of the attacks were close to Dr Singh’s talks and such raids are routine in the city. “In the light of the changing environment, we are reviewing the cases of all detainees,” Dr Singh said in his opening address at a roundtable conference in Srinagar. “Included in this is a review of those (who) crossed over (to Azad Kashmir) after violating our laws and who are now anxious to come home.” Senior aides to Dr Singh said later the prime minister was asking Kashmiri fighters to come back, and offering favourable treatment of their cases but stopping well short of an amnesty. They gave no further details. India says Kashmiri rebels cross into Azad Kashmir where they are trained and armed to carry out attacks in occupied Kashmir. Pakistan denies the charge but has checked “infiltration” along the Line of Control. Srinagar, a normally bustling city of steep pitched brick-and-timber buildings, was shut down by a two-day strike called by Kashmiri leaders to coincide with the roundtable, and sealed off by tight security. There are an estimated 600,000 troops in Kashmir. “It is possible and desirable that you should be firm but humane; effective and efficient; in control but unobtrusive,” Dr Singh’s aide, Sanjay Baru quoted him telling military, police and civilian commanders ahead of the afternoon peace talks. “He said the security forces must at all times function within the parameters of the law. ‘You must be steadfast in your commitment to human rights and there should be zero tolerance for custodial deaths’,” Mr Baru added.


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