Kashmir Violence Rising Dramatically
23 December 2003
The Washington Post
Srinagar: Violence between Indian security forces and separatist guerrillas in Indian-controlled Kashmir has almost tripled over the last month, with 152 people dying, up from 55 the previous month, according to figures compiled by The Associated Press. Although the tense Kashmir frontier has been quiet since an India-Pakistan cease-fire was agreed last month, there has been an increase in the number of casualties resulting from rebel violence in India's northern Jammu- Kashmir state, a police official said. The dead include civilians, suspected Islamic militants and security forces. During the same period last year, 90 people were killed. 'Despite the cease-fire, rebel actions are going on ... They (militants) are not keeping quiet. We also cannot reduce our levels of alertness,' K. Srinivasan, deputy inspector-general of the paramilitary Border Security Force, said. The rebels have kept up a series of grenade attacks, assaults on security forces and killing of civilians who they suspect of colluding with the police. More than a dozen rebel groups have been fighting Indian troops for Kashmir's independence or merger with Pakistan since 1989. Nearly 65,000 people have been killed in the conflict. Pakistan and India have fought two of their three wars over the disputed Himalayan region since they gained independence from Britain in 1947. The militants sneak across the rugged mountain frontier along the Line of Control, the 1972 cease- fire line that divides the Kashmir Valley between India and Pakistan. India says Pakistan's military supports the militants with money, weapons and training. Islamabad insists the rebels are 'freelance operators' whose cross-border movement cannot be completely curbed. Still, the two nuclear-armed neighbors are trying to make some moves toward peace. Since April, when Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee called for a resumption of dialogue to resolve their differences, the two countries have restored the only bus link between them, posted new ambassadors, enforced a cease-fire that has ended the routine firing and shelling between their two armies, and are set to restore train and air links soon. Infiltration and violence levels normally fall during winter, when the Himalayan passes and infiltration routes are blocked due to heavy snow. But the violence continued Tuesday, with at least seven people killed in separate shootouts in the insurgency-wracked region. Police said Islamic guerrillas forced their way into the home of Ghulam Rasool and shot and killed him before dawn in the frontier town of Baramulla about 55 kilometers (35 miles) north of Srinagar, the state's summer capital. Rasool's wife Sharifa Begum and his 18-year- old daughter, Kulsooma Bano, were also killed, a police official said on condition of anonymity. The officer said that the motive for the killings was not known, but a number of suspected police informants have been killed in the area. In separate gunbattles early Tuesday about 70 kilometers (40 miles) south of Srinagar, soldiers killed three unidentified guerrillas and one paramilitary soldier, police said. And, six civilian passers-by and one soldier were wounded when suspected guerrillas lobbed a hand grenade at a paramilitary ambulance in Bandipore, a town 65 kilometers (40 miles) north of Srinagar, said Neeraj Sharma, an India's Border Security Force spokesman.