Visiting Jammu and Kashmir amid allegations of fake encounters, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday sent out a firm message to security forces, saying action would be taken if they do not respect human rights of civilians while combating terrorism.

The Prime Minister, who arrived here on a two-day visit, also made a fresh offer of talks to those J&K groups which shun violence, even as he observed that attempts continued to be made from “across the Line of Control” to cause disturbances in the State.

He said meaningful talks with Pakistan, which could lead to resolution of “old issues,” were possible only when its soil was not allowed to be used for terrorism against India.

“I am aware of some complaints related to human rights. On this issue, the government policy is to protect the human rights of the people even when dealing with terrorism,” he said in his convocation address at the Sher-i-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology.

“The security forces in Jammu and Kashmir have been strictly instructed to respect the rights of the civilians. We will act to remove any deficiency in the implementation of these instructions,” he said.

The Prime Minister's assurance comes in the context of allegations of a fake encounter in Machil area along the LoC where three civilians were killed reportedly by Army men. An Army jawan has been arrested, a Major suspended and a Colonel removed from command duty in this connection.

Significantly, action against the Major and the Colonel was announced only on the eve of Dr. Singh's visit.

At the same time, the Prime Minister said there were a handful of people who did not want any political process for empowering people to succeed.

He said this was the reason that attempts to disturb the lives of the people in the Valley still continued from across the LoC. “Whenever such incidents happen, they spread terror and cause disruption in the lives of the people,” he said.

“Our security agencies are forced to act in the wake of such incidents. During the process, sometimes innocent civilians have to suffer but whenever such incidents happen it becomes necessary to act against those responsible for them,” Dr. Singh said.

Without naming Pakistan, he said he would like to “say to our neighbours across the Line of Control” that they should help in creating an environment in which people from both sides can live in peace and harmony.

On the internal dimension of the Kashmir issue, the Prime Minister noted that three Round Table Conferences were held in which civil society and political groups participated.

“We wish to carry forward the dialogue process [in Jammu and Kashmir]. We are ready to hold talks with representatives of all sections [in the State] who shun violence,” said Dr. Singh, during whose visit separatists gave a call for bandh.

He said as a result of the Roundtable Conferences, five working groups were set up and they gave several recommendations on improving the Centre's relations with the State, furthering cross-LoC relations and giving a boost to the State's economic development.

“We are implementing them in a step-wise manner,” Dr. Singh said but did not elaborate.

Pointing out that issues between India and Pakistan are well known, he said good neighbourly relations were in the interest of both the countries and necessary for peace and harmony, stability and development of the region.

He said the government would look at all possible measures to strengthen links between people on both sides of the LoC.