Violence in Indian Kashmir lowest in 2 decades

29 12 2008
Source: DAWN Associated press

SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Militant activity in the disputed region of Kashmir has fallen to its lowest levels since an anti-India rebellion began nearly two decades ago, police said Friday.

The number of militant attacks in 2008 fell 40 percent to 709 — the first time the number of attacks dropped below 1,000 — said Kuldeep Khoda, senior police official of Jammu-Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state.

In 2007, roughly 1,100 militant incidents were recorded in Indian Kashmir, he said.

Civilian casualties also fell to less than 100 for the first time since 1989 when militants began fighting Indian rule, Khoda said in a statement.

More than 68,000 people have died in the two decades violence, most of them civilians.

Police said there are 850 militants fighting in the region, including followers of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group India blames for the deadly Mumbai attacks last month. The largest militant group in the region is Hezb-ul-Mujahedeen, Khoda said.

Khoda said government forces this year killed about “350 militants including some top ranking rebel commanders in anti-militancy operations across the state.”

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and claimed by both in its entirety.

Meanwhile on Friday, government forces clashed with hundreds of rock-throwing protesters after the main mosque in Srinagar, the region’s biggest city, opened for Friday prayers after seven weeks.

The mosque had been closed as Indian troops enforced strict restrictions following separatists’ demands for a protest and boycott of state elections, the last phase of which was completed on Wednesday.

At least 10 protesters were injured in the Friday clashes, said a police officer on condition of anonymity in keeping with department policy.

“India calls it a democracy and conducts elections under curfews, arrests and military crackdown,” Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, a key separatist leader, told worshippers at the Jamia Masjid. “Let India know that domination is never victory and our fight for freedom will continue.”

India’s political leadership to blame: Wall Street Journal

28 11 2008

New York: India’s ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) has done little to launch an effective fight against terrorism and may “pay a price for its incompetence” in the elections next year, the Wall Street Journal said in its lead editorial on Friday.

“A lack of political leadership is to blame,” The Wall Street Journal said as India’s financial capital continued to battle terrorists who had struck in 10 places in the city Wednesday.

The Mumbai terror attacks, in which at least 125 people have been killed, have been covered extensively in both the print and online edition of this New York-based daily financial newspaper.

“It (the ruling party) may pay a price for its incompetence at the national polls next year,” the newspaper said.

“Yesterday Prime Minister Manmohan Singh promised that ‘every perpetrator would pay the price’. Yet his Congress Party has done little more than bicker with its coalition allies over the past five years on how best to fight terrorism,” the journal said.

Observing that the attacks are a reminder that India is at the top of the terror target list, the newspaper said this is because India is an easy target.

Not only are its intelligence units understaffed and lack resources, coordination among State police forces is also poor. “The country’s anti-terror legal architecture is also inadequate; there is no preventive detention law, and prosecutions can take years,” it said.

“Wednesday’s attacks should arouse Indians to better confront the terror threat, while reminding all democracies how dangerous that threat still is,” it said.

In another opinion piece published by The Journal, author Sadanand Dhume blamed the Congress for scrapping the anti-terror law POTA. “On taking office in 2004, one of the first acts of the ruling Congress Party was to scrap a federal antiterrorism law that strengthened witness protection and enhanced police powers,” he wrote.

“The Congress Party has stalled similar state-level legislation in Gujarat, which is ruled by the opposition Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. And it was a Congress government that kowtowed to fundamentalist pressure and made India the first country to ban Mumbai-born Salman Rushdie’s ‘Satanic Verses’ in 1988,” he said.

Dhume, a Washington-based writer and author of “My Friend the Fanatic: Travels with an Indonesian Islamist”, said the Indian approach to terrorism has been consistently haphazard and weak-kneed.