June 2007 News

Patil To Chair Review Meet

29 June 2007
The Daily Excelsior

New Delhi: A high-level meeting will be chaired tomorrow in Srinagar by Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil to review the situation in Jammu and Kashmir where violence has shown an upward trend for the past week. The meeting, to be attended by Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and top brass of the Army, BSF, CRPF and intelligence agencies, will discuss the sudden influx of militants from across the Line of Control and the increase in militancy-related violence. According to official figures, 20 militants have been killed since June 24 while five soldiers and two police personnel died in the same period. As many as 27 Army and police personnel were injured in the past six days. Five civilians were also killed by militants and 14 others injured during this period. Two major infiltration bids were also foiled in north Kashmir, official sources said. While the rise in violence could be related to the increase in infiltration by militants, what is being viewed as a cause of concern by security agencies is the abduction and killing of Police Head Constable Farooq Ahmed Tantray, whose head was severed in a barbaric manner. This, sources said, could be a clear message by militants that there would be no let up in violence. Besides, there is an apprehension that the number of Afghan and Pakistani militants within terrorist groups has increased. Harkat-ul-Ansar's shadow outfit Al-Faran had killed Norwegian tourist Hans Christan Ostro in a similar manner in 1995. Patil's visit comes barely days ahead of Home Secretary-level talks between India and Pakistan here next week. The Home Minister's decision to gain first-hand knowledge will help New Delhi in framing its stand for this meeting. The infiltration figures for May and June show a considerable increase over the corresponding period last year and the Army, during its recent meeting with the Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta, gave an assurance that the border fence in north Kashmir would be repaired by the end of this month as the area is regularly being used by militants to sneak into the State. Patil's visit also assumes significance in view of growing friction between the State's ruling Congress and its ally PDP over the demand for demilitarisation and withdrawal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. PDP has been staging rallies to drum up public support for its demand to reduce troops. However, Defence Minister A K Antony has rejected the demand, saying that two expert committees, including one headed by Defence Secretary Shekhar Dutt, were studying the matter and a decision would be taken on their recommendations. The State Government too believes the situation is not congenial for reducing troops from the current level in view of the latest infiltration figures. Patil will also review security arrangements for the annual Amarnath pilgrimage, particularly the requirement of additional paramilitary forces for multi-layer security along the route from Jammu to Pahalgam in south Kashmir. Among other things in his list of engagements is a review of decisions taken at the third Round Table Conference on Kashmir held here in April.


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