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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 25 February, 2003, 15:21 GMT
Kashmir police plans under fire
By Altaf Hussain
BBC correspondent in Srinagar

Police make an arrest in Kashmir
The police are accused of abuses
The government in Indian-administered Kashmir has been sharply criticised for backtracking on pledges to curb the activities of a notorious police counter-insurgency force.

The Special Operations Group has been widely accused of human rights violations in the conflict with militants fighting Indian rule.

New state Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed promised to disband the unit - but now says it will continue operating under a different command structure.

Opposition parties and human rights groups say the exercise is a sham, and accuse Mr Sayeed of misleading voters.

Amnesty International expressed disappointment over Mr Sayeed's about-turn.

And separatist groups as well as the former ruling party, the National Conference, have accused him of making false promises.

Backtrack

The chief minister came to power last autumn pledging action against the hated SOG, a unit of the state police.

The people will be victims of the same atrocities
Javed Ahmed Mir
Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front
He said it had become infamous because it was accused of violating human rights in Jammu and Kashmir, India's only Muslim majority state.

But he backtracked on his promise after assuming power and talked instead of "re-orienting the police".

He also said police officials guilty of misconduct in the past would be "forgiven".

'Redesignated'

On Monday, two days ahead of a crucial by-election, the state government ordered the SOG to be assimilated into the "regular police force".

A government spokesman said the police had not suspended their anti-militancy operations.

But all counter-insurgency measures from now on would be carried out under the supervision of district superintendents of police, he said.

Opponents of the government say the changes are cosmetic.

"This, in effect, means that Mufti Sayeed has made the entire police force responsible for operations against freedom fighters," said a prominent militant group, Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen.

A senior leader of the Jammu-Kashmir Liberation Front added that Mr Sayeed was now resorting to semantics to cover up his failures.

"The people will be victims of the same atrocities - whether it is superintendent operations or the district superintendent who supervises anti-militancy operations," its leader, Javed Ahmed Mir, said.




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