Nearly 70,000 killed in 17-year Kashmir insurgency: rights group

SRINAGAR, India: Nearly 70,000 people have died in the 17-year conflict in India’s portion of Kashmir, a local human rights group said Friday, a figure markedly higher than the latest police count.

The Jammu-Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society came up with the death toll after reviewing news reports and conducting door-to-door surveys in every district in Kashmir, Khurram Pervez, the head of the group, told The Associated Press. Most of dead were civilians.

Pervez said his group’s survey of news reports alone shows about 50,000 people have died, but he added, “We don’t subscribe to this figure as newspaper reports are mostly based on police handouts. Neither do we accept the government figure of 41,000.”

The latest police estimate said 19,987 rebels, 16,253 civilians and 4,982 security forces’ personnel were killed between January 1990 to November 2006.

However, Kashmir’s inspector-general of police, S.M. Sahai, acknowledged that many deaths went unreported in the early years of the violence.

“The initial years (of Kashmir insurgency) were chaotic … and hundreds of incidents went unreported,” Sahai said.

The All Parties Hurriyat Conference, the main separatist political alliance in the state, says more than 100,000 people have been killed in the nearly two decades of violence. A combination of police and human rights figures compiled by AP have previously put the death toll at 68,000.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, but both claim it in its entirety. The two nuclear-armed neighbors have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir since independence from Britain in 1947.

More than a dozen Islamic groups in Kashmir have been fighting for independence or a merger with predominantly Muslim Pakistan since December 1989.

International human rights groups have accused both the rebels and the Indian army of abuses in Kashmir. India says Pakistan arms and supports the Islamic insurgents, but Pakistan says it only gives the rebels diplomatic and moral support.

The Associated Press  IHT , December 8, 2006

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