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Centre announces 'significant' troop cut in J&K

Source: PTI
Last updated on: December 02, 2009 23:25 IST
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The government on Wednesday announced withdrawal of a 'significant' number of battalions of the Central forces from Jammu and Kashmir in a noteworthy confidence- building measure following the initiative for holding 'quiet' dialogue with the separatist groups.

Union Home Minister P Chidambaram told the Rajya Sabha that the decision had been taken in view of improvement of law and order situation in the state.

He also sought to reach out to separatist outfits of north east like the United Liberation Front of Asom and Naxal groups, saying the government was ready to hold dialogue if they abjured violence.

Replying to a debate in the Rajya Sabha on internal security, he said the government would maintain zero tolerance towards terrorism, whether it is in the shape of 'jihadi' violence or Hindu extremist violence.

He said India remains vulnerable to terrorism as he noted that outfits like the Lashkar-e Tayiba have forged alliances with the Al-Qaida and Pakistan has not changed its attitude.

On the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, Chidambaram said violence in the state has been the lowest this year and the Centre is willing to take 'what appears to be a risky step of withdrawing a significant number of battalions of security forces' and hand over law and order to the state police.

He said the process has already been initiated but refused to quantify the personnel being withdrawn.

Earlier in the day, Chidambaram told the Upper House of the Parliament that Kashmiri groups have responded positively to the Centre's initiative of 'quiet talks' and hoped a solution will emerge.

He said the government would not shy away from talking to any organisation, some of which are demanding self-rule.

Chidambaram noted that Jammu and Kashmir had a number of groups with a number of demands. And even though some groups had demanded the right of self-determination or self-rule, "I do not think we should shy away from talking to any group."

Referring to the north east, the home minister said ULFA is likely to make a political statement in the next few days and if that contains willingness to talk, the government is ready for a dialogue, provided the outfit abjures violence and gives up the sovereignty demand.

The statement assumes significance as ULFA chief Arabinda Rajkhowa has been reportedly detained in Bangladesh and is expected to be handed over to India soon.

Chidambaram said 'all but three states in the North East are entirely peaceful.. Our problems are in Assam and Manipur. Manipur is a cause for worry. I intend to pay greater attention to it.'

In Assam, he said an interlocutor is talking to four groups. The leadership of Dima Halam Daoga has been virtually neutralised and the National Democratic Front of Bodoland is coming forward for talks, he added.

In Nagaland, there is some uneasy truce, both factions of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland are being pursued to come to the negotiation table, he added.

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