Peace winds blow in Kashmir Valley

Peace winds blow in Kashmir Valley

There have been only sporadic incidents of violence in 2011, leaving 60 guerrillas, 21 security personnel and 25 civilians dead.

The slain security personnel include 13 soldiers and paramilitary troopers as well as eight policemen.

There have been around 25 grenade attacks and seven improvised explosive device blasts so far, said an intelligence officer.

Violence aimed at getting Jammu and Kashmir secede from India has claimed thousands of lives since 1989, with tourism virtually drying up during some years.

The picture is now different.

Despite the separatist violence, around 400,000 tourists visited the Valley in addition to about 600,000 who came here for the annual Amarnath Yatra this year.

"We had a very encouraging tourist season this year. People connected with the tourist industry have benefitted," said an official of the tourism department.

In comparison to 2009 and 2010, when massive protests and unrest hit the local economy and the educational system in the Valley, schools, colleges and universities have functioned normally this year.

Pakistan denies allegations that it arms and supports Islamist militants fighting to end Indian rule in Jammu and Kashmir.

Alarmed by the disturbing law and order situation in the last two years, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah keeps a close eye on the situation, said an official in the civil secretariat.

"The chief minister has alerted the administration that no chances should be taken while dealing with a law and order situation," an official said.

Abdullah's commitment became clear when he said on Twitter recently that hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani will not be allowed to hold peace to ransom. An official statement stated his speeches were always followed by stone pelting.

"The state government will not allow anybody to disturb the prevailing peace. If Geelani is placed under house arrest, he is himself responsible for the administration's decision."

The top brass of the security forces, including those in the army, maintain separatist guerillas are preparing to infiltrate into the Valley before the mountain passes are closed due to snowfall.

"Some 400 militants are ready to infiltrate. This is because the militant groups want to strengthen their depleting cadres," Lt. Gen. S.A. Hasnain, general officer commanding (GOC) of the army's Srinagar-based 15 corps, told the media recently.

The army guards the line of control (LOC), the de facto border between the Indian and Pakistani administered parts of divided Kashmir.

"With the first snowfall, which usually occurs in the higher reaches including the LOC by the middle of October or early November, the mountain passes leading into the Valley get closed.

"But despite the snows blocking the mountain passes, some infiltration bids have been made in winters in the past," said Lt. Col. J.S. Brar, spokesman of the army's 15 corps here.