NEW DELHI, India, April 8 Reuter: India accused Pakis tan on Friday of helping, training and arming Sikh freedom fighters fighting a separatist war in Punjab where violence has taken about 565 lives so far this year.

Home (Interior) Minister, Buta Singh, told Parliament Pakistan trained Sikh freedom fighters in eight or nine centers and the Indian government was considering ways of sealing the land border with that country.

“Sikh leaders have facilities to visit Pakistan periodically and they send arms from there”, he said, adding: “we have information about how many militants are being trained. There are eight or nine center’s (in Pakistan) where they are trained and armed”,

A spokesman for the Pakistani embassy in New Delhi reiterated Islamabad’s past statements  denying  the existence of training centers and support for the Sikh  separatists.

Singh, himself an excommunicated Sikh, admitted that violence had escalated in Punjab, home to most of India’s 16 million Sikhs.

Opposition leaders accused the government of failing to bring peace to Punjab where a moderate Sikh government was dismissed in May last year for failing to check violence.

Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s government took direct control of Punjab on May 11 but killings in attacks by militants as well as encounters with security forces have increased since then.

The government last month it self with powers to impose emergency rule in Punjab but Singh said it would try not to use it.

About 565 people have been killed in Punjab this year so far compared with 1.200 in all of last year.

The Press Trust of India (PTI) said 11 people were shot dead in the past 24 hours and police recovered several Chinese made AK 47 assault rifles, carbines and hand grenades from a village near Amritsar City.

For the first time in their armed campaign, militants last month used rockets to attack government targets.

“They are getting sophisticated weapons, night vision equipment and help from across the border,” Singh told the Lower House, adding that a top Indian official had last year confronted senior Pakis tan officials with evidence of their involvement in training the Sikhs.

India shares a long land border with Pakistan and Singh said the government was considering sealing the border to stop illegal crossings and, if possible, fencing part of it.

“We need effective policing of the border. We must equip our paramilitary forces with the best weapons”, he aid but added: “It is not possible to end insurgency in one go”.

Punjab has been the biggest political headache of Gandhi ever since he became Prime Minister in October 1984 after the assassination of his mother Indira Gandhi who was shot dead by her body guards.

“Punjab is a problem for the whole country not just for Pun jab”, Singh said. He also ruled out negotiations with separatists.

Article extracted from this publication >> April 15, 1988