Kashmir Portal

A digital Kashmir Info Network

India wants Kashmir troops move

Posted by Kashmir Portal on June 14, 2009

Indian soldiers in Kashmir

Hundreds of thousands of troops are based in Kashmir

The Indian government wants to withdraw troops from the inhabited areas of Indian-administered Kashmir, the home minister has said.

Palaniappan Chidambaram told reporters that the government wants to make the local police responsible for internal security in the region.

The minister refused to give a date for the withdrawal of the soldiers.

Hundreds of thousands of soldiers are based in Kashmir, where many residents resent their presence.

Kashmir has been a flashpoint between India and Pakistan for more than 50 years and the scene of two of their three wars. A Muslim separatist insurgency has been waged since 1989.

India sent it troops into Kashmir’s towns and villages 20 years ago to deal with a worsening insurgency, but their presence is deeply unpopular, says the BBC’s Mark Dummett in Delhi.

“It is our intention to redraw the lines of responsibilities,” Mr Chidambaram said.

He said the army was responsible for guarding the borders and stopping infiltration.

“The army also comes to the aid of the state in countering terrorism. But we would like the army to do it in areas far away from towns and cities,” Mr Chidambaram.

Unrest

Separatist groups in Kashmir have long demanded the withdrawal of Indian troops and laws like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which gives sweeping powers to the army in the state.

Mr Chidambaram said the government would consider the demand for withdrawing the act.

“We have flagged the issue. I promise to look at it,” he said.

Mr Chidambaram’s comments came during a two-day visit to the state, which has seen some considerable unrest in recent weeks.

Police in Kashmir

Mr Chidambaram said the local police would look after internal security

The Muslim-dominated valley region has been rocked by clashes between protestors and security forces after the discovery of the bodies of two young women in late May.

Police say they are treating the deaths as rape and murder.

Local residents have accused the security forces of the killings.

Mr Chidambaram said the state government intended to hold a thorough inquiry into the incident and punish those found responsible.

For much of the last two decades, separatist militancy and cross-border firing between the Indian and Pakistani armies has left a death toll running into tens of thousands and a population traumatised by fighting and fear.

But there has overall been a significant decline in violence in Indian-administered Kashmir over the past three years.

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