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Centre-Hurriyat talks on verge of collapse: Intelligence assessment

Josy Joseph in New Delhi | February 27, 2004 19:15 IST

The army's enthusiasm in hunting down militants in the Kashmir valley has led the historic dialogue between the Hurriyat leaders and the Centre to the verge of collapse, says an assessment of the home ministry and intelligence agencies.

The report said the army's actions have led to public protests, some of them bloody.

There are also allegations of human rights violations against the army, the report added.

Sources in the security agencies told that radicals have hijacked the protests and are using it to build pressure on the moderates to pull out of the talks.

The Centre-Hurriyat dialogue has already suffered a blow with one of the five separatist leaders, who met Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani on January 22, pulling out.

People's Political Front leader Fazal Haq Qureshi withdrew from the talks last week protesting human rights violations and the Centre's failure to release political prisoners as promised.

The present unrest in the valley started with the army returning the bodies of five locals from Bandipore last fortnight. The army said militants killed the locals during operations. But a survivor alleged the army killed the five men  in cold blood.

A few days later the police dug up the body of a local, who the army killed, claiming he was a Pakistani terrorist. The army later admitted that the man was a local, but a militant.

Home ministry sources told the army was to be blamed for the killing of the five porters that triggered off the series of incidents and violent protests that have now convulsed the Kashmir valley.

In Yaripora village in south Kashmir early this week the villagers staged protest marches against the army after it laid a cordon around the village for days to flush out militants. Among those killed in the subsequent operation, the army claims, was Arif Khan, a senior Hizbul militant active for 14 years.

Army officers say the Hizbul militant was a 'Robin Hood figure' and the protests were a strategy to allow the militants to escape.

But the army's arguments do not explain why ordinary villagers pour into the streets day after day.

On Thursday, hundreds of people protested the alleged assault of civilians by the army near Baramulla. The protestors stormed a stadium where Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed was to hold a meeting on Friday and destroyed the stage prepared for the meet.

As the protest turned violent the state police opened fire. A 17-year-old boy was killed and some others, including two policemen were injured.

An intelligence agency official told that the army has little credible human intelligence in the valley, as a result of which it has committed "unpardonable mistakes in these crucial times."

"Young army officers have no clue of the ground situation, how sensitive it is," the official said.

The army and other security forces want to eliminate terrorists since infiltration from Pakistan dropped considerably after the peace process began and snow covered the routes through which the terrorists sneak into the valley.

Army headquarters summoned the generals commanding the Northern Command, the Srinagar-based 15 Corps and Jammu-based 14 Corps on Wednesday and ordered them to be extremely cautious during operations.

The Centre plans to send N N Vohra, its mediator for the Kashmir talks, to the valley next week to interact with the Hurriyat leaders.

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More reports from Jammu and Kashmir
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