Tuesday, October 20, 2009

2 RR units pulled out of valley

Days after Home Minister P Chidambaram held out an olive branch to separatists, the Army has pulled out two Rashtriya Rifle battalions from the valley.
The reduction of troops in Kashmir has been a major demand of the separatists and mainstream parties like the NC and the PDP, too, have been pushing for it in the view of improved security situation. The 33 Rashtriya Rifles is being moved out of Handwara in north Kashmir, while 49 RR from Qazigund in south Kashmir.
Lt Col JS Brar, Srinagar-based Army spokesperson, told The Tribune that “the redeployment of troops is a dynamic process in a counter insurgency operation and is carried out at various levels based on periodic security reviews”.
Official sources said the exercise was part of the Union government’s decision to rationalise troops presence and at least three CRPF units were also pulled out from different parts of Kashmir in recent months. Though the pull out of two RR battalions would not make a big difference on the ground, its symbolism could be significant at a time when all round attempts were being to break the impasse on the Kashmir issue. Coming days may see more developments.
There are 36 battalions of the RR, the counter-insurgency force of the Army, deployed in the valley alone while 27 others were in the Jammu division, which is much bigger in area but has militants’ movements confined to a smaller region.
The sources said the two units withdrawn from Kashmir would be deployed in Reasi district, which had of late seen a spate of encounters.
Chidambaram in his recent visits to the valley had been at pains to emphasise an increasing role for the state police as violence had come down while agitations had increased.
Security officials said the number of militants active in the state, especially in Kashmir, remained at their usual level and the number and intensity of infiltration bids had only gone up recently. “It’s not that the threat has deceased. But we believe we are in better control and such decisions also have a political message,” a senior official said.

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