Valley violence at all-time low, Army starts to thin out troops

With violence levels in the Valley at an all-time low, the Army is relocating and thinning out troops engaged in counter-terrorism operations in Kashmir. Close to 3,000 troops deployed in the Valley have been relocated to the Line of Control with the Army moving out its 70 Infantry Brigade from Shopian in south Kashmir.

The move has taken place keeping in mind the changing "threat perception" in the Valley where militancy-related incidents have dropped to their lowest since the 1990s when the separatist movement was at its peak.

The 70 Infantry Brigade was moved out in February, barely a month after Army chief General Deepak Kapoor said that barring an odd aberration, violence levels in the state had come down more than 50 per cent compared to the previous year.

Sources said the headquarters of the Shopian-based brigade, which played a decisive role in the Kargil conflict, has moved to Leh. The brigade, whose earlier role was to support the Rashtriya Rifles (RR) in counter-militancy operations in the Valley, has now been tasked to guard the border.

"Troop movements or relocations take place according to the changing security environment. It is a dynamic process," a senior Army officer said, confirming that the brigade had been moved out of the Valley.

Even though infiltration levels came down 65 per cent last year, the Army is looking to strengthen its counter-infiltration grid along the Line of Control, given the deteriorating situation in Pakistan.

While official figures show that violence levels are at their lowest, the heavy turnout in the recent Assembly elections in the state has again underlined that militancy is on the decline in the Valley. Just over 20 militant-related incidents took place during the elections as against nearly 150 attacks that marred the 2002 polls. Srinagar, too, has not witnessed any major terror strike since 2005.

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