Indian Police Report Dramatic Increase in Kashmir Violence

May 5, 2002 - 0:0
SRINAGAR, India -- A senior Indian police officer said Saturday that 490 people had been killed in the first four months of this year in the troubled Kashmir Valley, a dramatic increase from 2001, and warned of fresh attacks by Muslim rebels. The timeframe coincides with a tense military stand-off between India and Pakistan and New Delhi's demands that Islamabad cut off alleged backing for Islamic guerrillas fighting in Kashmir. Some 131 civilians, 42 security force personnel and 317 Muslim separatist rebels were killed up to April, said K. Rajindera Kumar, the inspector general of police in charge of the Kashmir Valley. "In all there have been 287 incidents of militant violence between January 1 and April 30 this year," Kumar told AFP. In the same period in 2001, the death toll was 343 -- 51 civilians, 106 security personnel and 186 militants, he said. Last year Indian forces had been observing a short-lived unilateral cease-fire against the militants. India and Pakistan have deployed massive numbers of troops to their borders since December 13, when Islamic militants attacked the Indian Parliament. New Delhi blamed the attack on two Pakistan-based outfits fighting its rule in Kashmir. Pakistan says it has since taken steps to curb Islamic extremism. New Delhi, however, insists there can be no easing of tensions until Islamabad completely ends the infiltration of militants into Indian Kashmir. Kumar said of the 317 militants killed in the first four months this year, 180 were foreigners -- and most were Pakistani. He also said there had been 43 grenade blasts and 13 landmine explosions this year by militants in the Kashmir Valley, the Muslim-majority region where more than a dozen groups are fighting to end Indian rule. At least 35,000 people have died since the insurgency erupted in 1989 to join Kashmir with Pakistan or make it independent. separatists put the death toll twice as high. Kumar said security forces would intensify their operations against militants, who he said were plotting more attacks. "We have recorded conversations between militants which suggest they are planning to step up attacks in the wake of the shifting of the capital to Srinagar," Kumar said. Srinagar serves as Kashmir's capital between May and October, while Hindu-majority Jammu to the milder south is the capital in the winter months. "Police have been put on high alert to prevent militants from staging such attacks," the police chief said. "We have devised a strategy to deal with the militants, and we have succeeded so far," he said, adding that security forces were receiving information on militant movements from residents.