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After 'peaceful' 2012, Kashmiris urge end to war-time measures

Government tallies in Indian-controlled Kashmir show a drop in violence, fueling more calls for a loosening of the military presence here.

By Fahad ShahContributor / January 2, 2013

An Indian army soldier stands guard as a burqa clad Kashmiri woman walks by during a strike in Srinagar, India, Monday, Dec. 31, 2012. Government tallies in Indian-controlled Kashmir find that 2012 was the most peaceful year, and many Kashmiris urge end to war-time measures.

Mukhtar Khan/AP

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Srinagar, Indian-controlled Kashmir

Government tallies in Kashmir find that 2012 was the most peaceful year since an armed rebellion began in the disputed region in 1989. Despite that, no measures have been taken to demilitarize the region or to revoke the draconian laws that provide impunity to paramilitary forces here.

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A report released by the Jammu and Kashmir state last week put hard numbers on the widely-observed notion that armed separatism has steadily declined and is nearing extinction. “There have been 33 grenade attacks and IED explosions this year up to November end as compared to 41 last year. 95 people, including 23 civilians, 14 paramilitary forces’ personnel and 58 militants, were killed in 2012. It is much lesser as compared to the year 2011 in which 173 people were killed,” the report said.

The relative peace has brought a revival in tourism to Kashmir, but a political dialogue for resolving Kashmiri aspirations remains moribund. Many residents of the mostly-Muslim Kashmir Valley still express a desire for independence, and India remains wary of lifting its heavy military presence. 

“The year 2012 was peaceful if we look at the general change in the atmosphere but despite that nothing happened on demilitarization. The reason for it is that we are still operating under the security paradigm and we have not sufficiently moved away to a political paradigm yet,” says Gul Wani, a political analyst and academic at Kashmir University.

That security paradigm persists partly out of a sense that the peace here is so fragile that it could be upset by a single incident of violence.

Still, that shouldn't preclude some movement on the political front, Mr. Wani argues. “The security establishment will remain the determining factor but within that the political actors, whether mainstream or separatists, will also continue to ask for liberalizing the civilian space, demilitarization, revocation of some laws."

Kashmiris have been pushing for years for the revocation of two laws in particular; the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and Public Safety Act (PSA). AFSPA grants broad immunity to Indian forces operating in Kashmir, and the PSA allows for detention without trial for a minimum of six months and maximum of one year.  

Also at issue is the heavy presence of military forces and bunkers throughout the state, including roughly 600,000 troops (including paramilitary and police forces), according to the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, a prominent human rights organization.

“The militancy has died down to a trickle; a security review is required that could involve re-deployment of the troops,” agrees Radha Kumar, the director general of the Delhi Policy Group that works on track two diplomacy.

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