Indian Kashmir leader urges end of security laws
Indian Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah called Friday for the repeal of strict security laws giving sweeping powers to Indian troops battling a waning separatist insurgency in the region.
Militant violence has dropped sharply in Kashmir since India and Pakistan, which each hold the region in part but claim in full, started a peace process in 2004.
New Delhi put the peace process on hold after deadly militant attacks on Mumbai that left 165 dead and were blamed on Pakistan-based guerrillas opposed to India's rule in Kashmir.
But there has been no upsurge in rebel violence since the talks were suspended and Abdullah said abolishing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which gives authorities wide powers to shoot, arrest and search and is widely detested by Kashmiris, was "realistic."
"The special powers were granted to the army under an extremely unusual situation which arose in 1989-90," he told NDTV, referring to the years when Muslim militants launched the revolt against Indian rule.
"As that situation heads towards normalising, I think it (repealing of the law) is something that we definitely can look at."
Abdullah's comments came a day after Kashmir witnessed a massive protest over the killing of a carpenter by federal police placed in the region under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.
Police said the carpenter died in cross-fire during a clash between rebels and police. But his family said he was killed after he argued with police who raided his house and there were no rebels in the area at the time of his death.
Last month, troops were accused of killing two civilians near their camp, and the 39-year-old chief minister said such killings were "simply unacceptable."
The unrest has so far left more than 47,000 people dead by official count. Human rights groups say some 70,000 people are dead or missing as a result of the insurgency.
While rebel violence has lessened, anti-India sentiment still runs deep in the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley, which last year witnessed some of the biggest protests ever against Indian rule. Over 50 people were killed, mostly by security forces.