Indian authorities have announced measures to improve security and combat militant violence in Kashmir. The measures include sweeping powers for security forces to detain, arrest or shoot lawbreakers in the south of Kashmir.
India's Home Minister Lal Krishna Advani told Parliament Thursday that emergency powers being granted to security forces in the southern Jammu region will make it possible to crackdown on separatist guerrillas. "The government is determined to thwart the nefarious designs of the terrorists, and their mentors across the border, and not to let the counter insurgency grid be thinned out," he said.
The tough law being imposed in the Hindu-dominated Jammu region has already been in effect in the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley for more than a decade. Under the law security forces can arrest suspects without a warrant, carry out search operations at will, and issue "shoot-to-kill" orders without prior authorization. The law has been severely criticized by human rights groups who say the unfettered powers with the police and army in the Kashmir valley led to rampant human rights violations and increased custodial killings.
Prominent Kashmiri separatist leader Abdul Ghani Bhat says the granting of special powers did not improve the situation in Kashmir valley - and is unlikely to do so in Jammu. He expressed fears that it may lead to harassment of Muslims in Jammu.
The Bharatiya Janata Party led coalition government has been under pressure for a tough response after Muslim guerrillas killed 13 people Tuesday at a heavily guarded railway station in Jammu. Since then Jammu city has been under curfew, with Hindu nationalist groups threatening to hold protest marches against the government's failure to prevent militant attacks.
Mr. Advani also announced several measures to improve security in Jammu region. He said village defense committees will be strengthened and security forces will be redeployed to protect "soft targets" such as civilians. He also blamed Pakistan for recent militant violence in Kashmir that followed a summit between the leaders of the two countries. "It must be appreciated what we are fighting is a proxy war of multiple dimensions," he said. "Unleashed by an inimical neighboring country which has had no qualms in rationalizing the brutal killing of innocent men, women, and children as a freedom struggle."
India accuses Pakistan of sponsoring militant attacks in Kashmir, but Pakistan says it provides only moral and diplomatic support.