Is Lashkar-e-Taiba behind Kashmir protests?
India has blamed the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group for violent anti-India demonstrations sweeping across the Muslim-majority valley in which 11 people have been killed so far.
In Indian Kashmir, authorities extended a curfew on Friday and deployed thousands of troops to quell fresh protests that have spread to other parts of the disputed region.
“We think it is the LeT (Lashkar-e-Taiba) which is active in Sopore (in north Kashmir),” Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said.
But Kashmir’s former chief minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, called the response from New Delhi to the present Kashmir crisis an “insult” to the people of Kashmir.
“Linking the genuine anger and anguish among people here with terrorism was nothing short of an assault on their self-respect and dignity,” Sayeed said.
Sayeed, chief and founder of the state’s main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP), was also India’s Home Minister when armed revolt against New Delhi’s rule broke out in 1989.
Omar Abdullah, Kashmir’s chief minister, also says ”anti-India forces” are creating trouble and has asked people to respect curfew and counsel their children.
PDP believes the disconnect between New Delhi and the Kashmir was deliberately being fuelled to push the strife-weary people to the wall and justify the crackdown on unarmed people.
“We have been at the receiving end of the anti-national label for too long and dubbing an entire people as being vulnerable to inspired influences raises questions not just about this place but the whole idea of India,” Sayeed added.
Many locals believe anti-India protests are mostly spontaneous and say when Kashmir is mourning the deaths, such statements from New Delhi add insult to injury.
“Let government of India be clear. Does it mean that those kids who got killed in military and police action belong to Lashkar-e-Taiba?” Abdul Rasheed Sheikh, a lawmaker from north Kashmir said.
The home minister’s comment came after a meeting called on Wednesday by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to discuss the spiralling violent protests.
Many Kashmiris, glued to their television sets, were expecting some sympathy with the families of slain civilians after the meeting.
Many of those killed were young protesters who died of bullet wounds. One was beaten to death and another was hit by a tear-smoke shell.
“But ironically the outcome of the meeting suggested that Delhi is yet to come out of its stagnated mindset and continues to treat Kashmir as a law and order problem,” an angry Sheikh said.
Is New Delhi further alienating Kashmiris by such statements?
Is Lashkar behind the crisis in Kashmir valley, where according to a recent poll by think-tank Chatham House, between 75 percent and 95 percent support independence from both India and Pakistan?