NEW DELHI, Jan 14 (IANS) - The government may reduce by 25 percent the presence of security forces in the populated areas of Jammu and Kashmir in the next 12 months, Home Secretary G.K. Pillai said Friday, announcing a slew of confidence building measures to bring peace in the troubled state.
"We are considering the reduction in the presence of security forces in Kashmir," Pillai said at a seminar, "What is the way forward in Jammu and Kashmir".
He said the government wished "to do more" in terms of troop reduction - a popular demand of various mainstream and separatist political parties.
"But there is a fear of backlash (from militants). But there will be a 25 percent reduction of security forces in Jammu and Kashmir, especially from populated areas, in the next 12 months," he said.
The home secretary said more security pickets would be removed from Srinagar city in the next few months.
The proposal to further reduce the presence of security forces in the state comes after a prevailing calm in the Kashmir Valley following the months of unrest in summer that left 112 people killed in firing by security forces on stone-pelting protesters.
The government had put a brake on the withdrawal of troops last year when nearly 35,000 security forces' personnel were removed from the state that has been battling a separatist war backed by Pakistan since 1989.
He said the removal of security forces from populated areas was part of the eight-point agenda the government had approved last year as part of building confidence of Kashmiris.
"We want the presence of security forces in the state as minimum as possible," Pillai told IANS later on the sidelines of the symposium organised by the Jamia Millia Islamia University here.
He said the government was retraining 10 battalions of state police who can take charge of the law and order situation. "This has already started. They would not be carrying guns in case of any local law and order situation. They will have sticks and shields to manage protesting crowds," he said.
The retraining of local police personnel apparently comes in the wake of widespread criticism against paramilitary troopers who last year opened fire at stone throwers,killing 112 civilians during deadly protests in the summer agitation that lasted for over 100 days.
He said the government would announce a slew of measures in the next few months. It would include "making the governance more transparent by appointing information commissioners and state accountability commission".
"There are key issues that are being picked up. Negotiations are on on the political solution of Kashmir and we are clear that any solution for the state should be acceptable to all the regions (Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh). Democracy and rule of law should prevail and the solution should respect the diversity, ethnicity and all faiths."