Normalcy is gradually returning to Kashmir though insurgency has not been eliminated totally.
Defence Minister A.K. Antony told visiting journalists from Kerala in New Delhi that peace was retuning to Kashmir valley. Consequently, there was increase in tourist flow and improvement in agriculture production.
The journalists, who toured Srinagar and nearby locations, saw for themselves that life was normal in many parts of Kashmir, though some important leaders, including members of the Assembly, had body guards posted before their houses. Security was relaxed at the Hazratbal Shrine which had seen a siege by the army to flush out militants in 1993. Pre-paid mobile services still remain banned.
The protests called by clerics and hardliners against a US film on the prophet had led to angry protests, clashes with the police and burning of government vehicles this week. However, the authorities had been able to contain the violence through strong measures. Traffic through the main roads was not significantly affected even as Kashmir observed a bandh over the film on Tuesday. These developments were, however, not directly related to insurgency.
Commanding Officer of the 13 Rashtriya Rifles, Colonel Manish Chaturvedi told journalists that the terrorist activities were on the decline, but had not gone away.
The Commanding Officer, who oversees part of the army operations from his camp in the outskirts of Srinagar, said the infiltration from Pakistan was still on, but the level had declined. It was not possible to check infiltration because of the terrain.
Col. Chaturvedi said the army had stopped combing operations in villages and identity checks in view of the reduction in terrorist activities. It was getting intelligence on the movement of terrorist from the local people. Retaliatory strikes against surrendered terrorists had also come down. The army was still on constant vigil.
The biggest challenge to the army was avoiding civilian casualties while engaging terrorists, said Mr. Chaturvedi. Training to respect human rights was being given to army personnel at all levels. The army also organised civil meets for improving communication and understanding with local people. It also sponsored ‘Sadbhavana’ activities such as organisation of medical camps, sports meets and tours to important places.