Separatists Unimpressed By Troop Withdrawal

18 December 2009
Greater Kashmir
Danish Nabi

Srinagar: Union Defence Minister, A K Antony’s statement that 30,000 troops had been pulled out of Jammu and Kashmir has failed to generate enthusiasm among separatist leaders, while the mainstream leaders have termed it as a welcome step. The Chairman of Hurriyat Conference (G), Syed Ali Shah Geelani, while reacting to the development said, “We can’t say if it has happened or not. Even if it has happened it is insignificant. Cutting a few thousand troops from the existing eight lakh, is very insignificant. Our demand is total demilitarisation.” The Chairman of Hurriyat Conference (M), Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, termed it a step on paper. “It (troop reduction) has just happened on paper. Had it been a reality people would have felt the difference on the ground,” Mirwaiz said. “We want to ask the Indian Defence Minister where and when did it happen?” he questioned. “If India is sincere, it should openly withdraw its troops from civilian areas and dismantle all barricades and bunkers. There is no justification for the presence of eight lakh troops in Kashmir as New Delhi itself claims that situation has improved to a great extent,” Mirwaiz said. The vice-chairman of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, Advocate Bashir Ahmad Bhat said the statement is an eye-wash. “If 30000 troops would have been withdrawn from Kashmir, then everyone would have seen it,” he said. The Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs, Ali Muhammad Sagar, said troop reduction was something Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah, had been working for. “He has been making efforts for it quietly and it has happened now.” He said the reduction represents improvement in the security situation, “If situation improves there will be more reduction of troops in near future.” Peoples Democratic Party, main opposition party of the state, said it was a small but a welcome step. The spokesperson of the party, Naeem Akhter, said the troop reduction should not be “cosmetic” where one battalion is replaced by another. “Actual affect shall be visible on ground,” he added. He said reducing number of troops was insignificant till Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and other draconian laws were applicable to JK. “Until that time a single trooper present in Kashmir is equivalent to too many,” he added. The senior Vice- President and spokesperson the Congress party, Muzaffar Parray, said, “ We appreciate the move and hail the ministers for keeping the word. Home Minister P Chidambaram and others had assured troop reduction after reviewing the situation and now they have kept their word.”