April 2007 News

Kashmir violence falls to all time low -official

1 April 2007

Srinagar: The number of daily killings in Indian Kashmir has fallen by more than two-thirds, the lowest in the past 17 years, a police official said on Sunday. A halting peace process between India and Pakistan is believed to have cut the number of militants fighting Indian rule in its portion of Kashmir. 'In the past few years, there has been a considerable decline in violence. The killings have come down from 10 a day in 2001 to three a day in 2006,' a senior security official, who did not want to be identified, told Reuters. 'This has been the lowest figure since the insurgency erupted in late 1989.' But people are still being killed in daily shootouts and occasional grenade and bomb attacks in the Himalayan region, cause of two of three wars between India and Pakistan. On Thursday night, suspected Muslim separatists shot dead five Hindu road workers and a day later wounded more than a dozen civilians in a grenade attack. New Delhi says Islamabad is not doing enough to curb infiltration of militants from Pakistani Kashmir, despite the peace process between the two nations that started in Jan. 2004. But some independent analysts say Islamabad, which is facing domestic turmoil as well as international pressure to crack down on Islamist militants, has significantly reduced infiltration of guerrillas from its side. According to Indian police figures 42,147 people - 20,647 separatist militants, 16,476 civilians and 5,024 security personnel - have been killed in Indian Kashmir since the bloody revolt broke out in 1989. But human rights groups put the toll at around 60,000 while separatists say more than 100,000 have been killed in Jammu and Kashmir, mainly Hindu India's only Muslim-majority state. With violence levels falling, the summer capital, Srinagar, no longer shuts down at night. Shops and restaurants which closed before dusk earlier now stay open until late evening. 'We are just praying and hoping the situation improves further and keeping our fingers crossed,' 35-year- old Saqlain Ahmad, a local resident and shopkeeper, said. 'There's nothing like peace, at least these people can go back and not harass us anymore,' Ahmad added, pointing towards a group of soldiers, patrolling his street. After the fall in violence, New Delhi said last week it would set up a panel of experts to determine whether to reduce troop numbers across Kashmir. Roughly 500,000 troops are deployed in the region.


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