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'When I came in 2003, 10 people were killed every day. Today it is 3 a day'

January 25, 2007
In the third part of this exclusive interview, Jammu and Kashmir Governor retired Lieutenant General Srinivas Kumar Sinha takes a candid looks at the ground situation in Kashmir.

While admitting that the terrorists have succeeded in alienating and dividing the people, the general -- widely acknowledged to be one of the Indian Army's finest officers -- tells Claude Arpi that his dream of a Kashmirayat might still come true.

Part I: How we defeated the Pakistanis in 1948

Part II: 'They will stab you in the back too'

You took over as governor of Jammu & Kashmir in 2003. How do you assess the situation today, 49 years after the airlift that you organised?

It is unfortunate that the state which had the most liberal tradition in the past, more liberal than any part of the Indian subcontinent, has become a prey to Islamic fundamentalism. This is the root of the insurgency or militancy or terrorism, whatever you want to call it, which started after 1989.

Of course, I must add that both Delhi and Srinagar are responsible because they failed to provide good governance. People had complaints like anywhere else in India, but (the problem) here is that these complaints are linked with Islamic fundamentalism supported by Pakistan.

When militancy erupted in 1989-1990, the Kashmir valley was on fire. They expected in a matter of days that it would become part of Pakistan. They also resorted to ethnic cleansing. The 300,000 Kashmiri Pandits were hounded out of the valley.

During the next 10 to 12 years, we have actively combated militancy. We have been able to bring violence under control in a reasonable manner. Statistically, when I came in 2003, there were 10 people killed every day. That was the average. Today it is 3 a day. It is a sharp decline, but violence still continues.

A very good indicator of normalcy returning is when last year there was an increase in tourist traffic. From a mere 28,000 in 2002, it roses to 190,000 in 2003 and in 370,000 in 2004.

Indians or foreigners?

All Indians. In 2005, it crossed the 600,000. In 2006, during the first half, tourism was doing very well, but at the end of June, early July, the militants started targeting tourists; they have not been doing this earlier. They inflicted a lot of casualties on tourists from Gujarat and West Bengal, the two states from which the maximum tourists came.

Our daily arrival of tourists was 4,000 or 5,000, later it dropped to 400 or 500 a day. Till today, a little over 400,000 have come to the valley (during 10 months of 2006). By the end of the year, it should around 450,000. This is the situation as far as the militancy is concerned.

Photograph: Tourists pose for pictures before a Shikara on the shores of the Dal Lake in Srinagar, June 2006, days after a wave of terror attacks in the valley. Photograph: Sajjad Hussain/AFP/Getty Images

Also see: Tourists throng to Kashmir


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