Kashmiris turn against foreign militants

5 April 2009
The Hindustan Times
Arun Joshi

New Delhi: For the first time since militancy hit the Valley, Kashmiris have turned against infiltration by foreign militants across the Line of Control (LoC). They have expressed their sentiment by keeping away from burials of those killed in encounters. There are no protests either. In a sharp turn of the popular mood, a soldier of the Valley killed during an anti-infiltration operation was given a tearful and heroic farewell by hundreds in his village Dab in Ganderbal on March 24. During their two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir, Union Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta and Defence Secretary Vijay Singh on Thursday were told that the local support for militants was drying up and that the people were against the influx of foreign militants into the Valley. Most of the militants coming into the Valley are Pakistanis belonging to the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and Al-Badr outfits. Kashmiris across the LoC were still waiting for some kind of a safe passage to enter the Valley, for which initiatives were put in process after the second round table conference on Kashmir in Srinagar in May 2006, but could not be concretised owing to the developments in Pakistan. Government sources said this visible change in the mindset of Kashmiris was because of two factors- growing opposition towards violence and discovery of the benefits of operating within the system. They feel that street protests and queuing up at polling booths have delivered dividends. If street protests have helped shift army camps and led to an inquiry into the civilian killings being set up, the power of the ballot has increased the sense of security. The frightening suicide bombings in Pakistan - almost on a daily basis - too have had a role in the changing attitude of people of Kashmir.