Thursday, December 3, 2009

PC: Forces to be reduced in J-K

Twenty years after Pakistan-sponsored militancy took roots in Jammu and Kashmir, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram today announced a reduction in force deployment levels in the state even as he himself admitted that it could be a “risky step.”

Replying to a passionate and - at times - a heated debate on internal security in the Rajya Sabha here this evening, the Home Minister said the Centre is willing to take "what appears to be a risky step" of withdrawing security forces and hand over law and order to the state police.

“We are willing to withdraw a significant number of battalions,” Chidambaram said, adding that he could not give the number of battalions due to security reasons. The Home Minister buttressed his announcement saying the incidents of violence in J&K have been the lowest in 2009.

“The number of civilian and security forces casualties has been the lowest this year. The forces have been stopping infiltrations and neutralising the militants. Festivals like the Id and Gurpurab have been peaceful. Thousands of Sikhs took out a procession in the valley to mark Gurpurab,” the Home Minister said. The Amarnath Yatra was peaceful while lakhs continue to visit the Vaishno Devi shrine in the state.

On terrorism, the Home Minister said India is as vulnerable to a terror attack today as it was a few months ago because terrorist groups have forged alliances against the country. But he added, “God forbid, should there be any terrorist attack, our response will be swift and decisive." He said over a dozen attempts have been foiled.

Without naming Pakistan, Chidambaram said even while there has not been any terrorist attack in the last one year, the country cannot lower its guard because “our adversary has not changed its attitude...” he said while adding that “You will note that I am using the word adversary and not enemy...” The epicentre of the cross border terrorism is the junction point of Afghanistan and Pakistan and “… we are vulnerable”.

On Naxals, the Home Minister took on the civil society that justified the violent methods of the Naxals. “The civil society says the Naxal cause is right.. while Naxals describe the state as an enemy, they say the Parliament is a rotten system and believe in armed struggle to seize power. For them, the police, the paramilitary and the Army are enemies.

The time has come for the nation to decide how to deal with them,” he said. The Minister said that the government would use force to re-assert wherever we have lost control over an area. “There can be no development unless the government controls the area,” the Home Minister added.

On ULFA, he said was likely to make a political statement in the next few days and that the government was ready to talk to them. He said the government policy would be zero tolerance towards the Jihadi or Hindu militants. “Terrorism is inspired by religious fanatics… no one should blame all Muslims or Hindus.”

BJP members Prakash Javadekar, Balbir Punj and SS Ahluwalia objected to his statement of “Hindu militancy”. Chidambaram said whether it is Islamic terrorism or Hindu militancy, there has to be zero tolerance.

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