Time to relax Kashmir security laws: chief minister

from Agence France-Presse
Published on 12 Oct 2011 View Original

SRINAGAR, India — Tough long-standing laws that fuel much of the unrest in disputed Indian Kashmir could be withdrawn because of a fall in violence, the region's chief minister said on Wednesday.

The widely detested Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) gives security forces sweeping powers on detention, shooting of alleged militants and destruction of property suspected of being hideouts.

It has been in force since 1990 across Indian Kashmir, a Muslim-majority region of north India where a 20-year insurgency against rule from New Delhi has cost tens of thousands of lives.

Indian Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, speaking after a meeting on Tuesday in New Delhi with Home Minister P. Chidambaram, said progress could be made towards relaxing the laws.

"Omar Abdullah said that the gradual improvement in the security scenario and restoration of peace has paved the way for revocation of AFSPA in peaceful areas of the state," a statement from his office said.

Earlier this year, UN special rapporteur Margaret Sekaggya demanded the Indian government repeal the AFSPA.

Militant violence has dropped sharply in Kashmir since India and Pakistan, which each hold the region in part but claim it in full, started a peace process in 2004.

But anti-India sentiment still runs deep in the Kashmir valley, which last year witnessed some of the biggest protests ever against Indian rule.

Over 110 people were killed, mostly by security forces.

This summer has been peaceful, resulting in the arrival of more than 700,000 tourists, the highest number since the insurgency began.

Meanwhile, Indian troops Wednesday shot dead two rebels including a militant commander who has been active in the Kashmir valley since the inception of the insurgency in 1989, police said.

The commander was identified as Mushtaq Janghi, of dominant pro-Pakistan Hizbul Mujahedin group.

"He was the longest-surviving militant in the valley," said Abdul Gani Mir, the deputy inspector general of police, claiming that the commander was involved in the killing of about 25 civilians.

Mir said the two were killed during a gunbattle in the central district of Gandherbal.

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