Violence In Kashmir Dips To Record Low: Police

31 August 2009

Srinagar: Violence in Indian Kashmir has fallen to its lowest level since militants launched an insurgency against Indian rule 20 years ago, officials said Monday, while warning against complacency. According to official police records, killings have dropped to one a day, from 10 daily in 2001 and a peak of 13 in 1996 when the insurgency was at its height with daily bomb attacks and gunbattles. 'The militant violence has fallen to an all-time low,' a police officer told AFP, requesting not to be named as he was not authorised to talk to the media. 'For the first time since 1989, the daily death toll has dropped to one,' the officer said, referring to the year when the separatist revolt began in the Muslim-majority Himalayan region. During the first seven months of 2009, 195 people - 113 militants, 45 civilians and 37 security personnel - were killed in the region But, despite the easing of violence, Indian Kashmir's senior minister Ali Mohammed Sagar opposed any reduction in Indian troop levels in the state. 'Troops will be reduced and sent back to barracks once the situation is under total control,' he said, and warned that it was not wise to 'lower our guard as some incidents (of violence) were still taking place.' In two separate incidents on Monday, militants shot dead two federal policemen and a grenade attack injured five officers and nine civilians in the main city of Srinagar, police said. The levels of violence declined sharply after India and Pakistan, whose territorial dispute over Kashmir has triggered two wars, embarked on a peace process in 2004. The process was suspended in the wake of the militant attacks last November on India's financial capital Mumbai. Indian officials also attribute the drop to fencing off the border between the two countries and what they say are more effective counter-insurgency tactics. The insurgency has left more than 47,000 people dead, according to official figures. Human rights groups put the toll at 70,000 dead and disappeared. India has an estimated 500,000 troops and paramilitary soldiers in Kashmir yet top security officials said militants were still infiltrating into Kashmir from the Pakistani-zone of the divided state. 'This year over 70 militants have managed to cross into Kashmir against 45 in the corresponding period last year,' Lieutenant General P.C. Bharadwaj told reporters last week. He said the army had prevented some two dozen attempts by militants to cross into Kashmir this year. 'We have killed 57 militants while foiling their attempts to enter our territory,' he said. He noted that the biggest challenge before the army was to restore peace, maintain it and put the state on the path to development. The drop in violence has led to an increase in tourist arrivals. In 1988 more than 700,000 foreign and Indian tourists visited Kashmir but the number declined sharply after the eruption of the insurgency. Now with the drop in violence the tide seems to be turning. Tourist officials say that in 2007, nearly 450,000 tourists visited Kashmir, followed by 550,000 in 2008. And in the first seven months of 2009 more than 380,000 tourists have visited the region.