SRINAGAR, India, Oct 26 (Reuters) – Separatists in Indian Kashmir urged New Delhi to pull out troops, release prisoners and end human rights violations before resuming talks aimed at a solution to the decades-old problem in the Himalayan region.
Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said earlier this month New Delhi will reach out to every section of political opinion in the strife-torn region through "quiet dialogue, quiet diplomacy".
New Delhi has not fixed a timeline for the dialogue or said how it will take place.
Kashmir’s moderate and main separatist alliance, the All Parties Hurriyat (Freedom) Conference, which has welcomed India’s fresh talks offer, listed on Sunday what it called "confidence building measures … to make the dialogue result-oriented".
"Before starting dialogue process India should demilitarise the region, repeal draconian laws, stop human rights violations, allow peaceful protests, release all the prisoners unconditionally…," the Hurriyat said in a statement.
Hard-line separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani denounced Chidambaram’s latest offer for talks and has demanded tripartite talks between India, Pakistan and Kashmiri separatists.
The hardliners have called for a two day-strike from Tuesday to mark the 62nd anniversary of New Delhi’s rule over the region, and protest a proposed visit by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The Hurriyat statement came a day after the killing of a 25-year-old man, allegedly by the Indian army, which sparked protests in Kashmir where anti-India protests have been rising.
The army has denied the charge and authorities have ordered a probe into the killing.
Separatist groups have long demanded the withdrawal of Indian troops and scrapping of anti-terrorism laws, including the Armed Forces Special Powers Act that gives sweeping powers to security forces in Kashmir, where about 500,000 troops are stationed.
The Hurriyat, which said it has not yet received a formal offer from New Delhi for new talks, began a dialogue with New Delhi in 2004, the first between the two sides since an armed revolt demanding independence began in 1989.
Tens of thousands have been killed since. Officials say there are more than 2,500 political prisoners in Kashmir.
The last round of talks was held in May 2006. Prime Minister Singh and the Hurriyat agreed then to establish a system to discuss solutions to the dispute over Kashmir, dating from the partition of the Indian subcontinent in the late 1940s.
Both India and Pakistan, which have fought two wars over Kashmir, claim the region in full, but rule over it in parts. (Editing by Rina Chandran and Jerry Norton)
Parvez Rasool, a Kashmiri cricketer, was briefly detained in Bangalore on suspicion of carrying explosives, an incident which triggered anger in the Muslim-dominated Kashmir valley.This is not an isolated case.Earlier actor and model Tariq Dar, a Kashmiri Muslim, was mistakenly imprisoned in New Delhi for weeks for having terror links. But Dar was later found innocent.Delhi University lecturer S.A.R. Geelani, a Kashmiri, was even awarded the death sentence in connection with the 2001 Parliament attack case, but was later released.Are Kashmiri Muslims, weary of decades of violence, treated unfairly by Indian authorities in different parts of the country?The Kashmiri cricketer’s detention did not go down well in the strife-torn region, where anti-India sentiment still runs deep.Rasool’s detention comes at a time when New Delhi has decided to resume peace talks with the leadership of the Himalayan region aimed at ending over 60 years of dispute.Kashmiri travellers and traders who talk of being harassed after militant violence in any part of India, say such incidents are pushing ordinary people further away from the Indian mainstream.Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, chief of Kashmir’s main separatist alliance All Parties Hurriyat (Freedom) Conference, said he would be taking up the issue of Rasool’s detention during his talks with New Delhi.Tens of thousands of people have died during 20 years of anti-India insurgency in Kashmir. The strife has left nothing untouched in the scenic region, once the heart of Sufi Islam in the subcontinent and home to an easy-going society.Kashmir’s young chief minister, Omar Abdullah, said it is easy to see young Kashmiris as terrorists but urged New Delhi to handle the youth of his state carefully and help heal the wounds of violence.Kashmiri sportsmen say these things humiliate people in Kashmir where violence between Indian troops and separatist militants has brought untold misery to the residents.Does being a Muslim from Indian Kashmir invite suspicion in a predominantly Hindu country?
New Delhi is barring residents of Indian Kashmir from travelling to China on separate visas issued by the Chinese embassy.Saifuddin Soz, senior Kashmiri leader and member of India’s ruling Congress party, has said the decision by China to issue hand-written visas on loose sheets of paper to Kashmiris was “not acceptable”.Why is China issuing separate visas to people from Indian Kashmir?Separatist leaders say that China’s decision to issue visas to Kashmiris on loose sheets reflects Beijing’s recognition of Kashmir as disputed territory.Kashmir, where tens of thousands of people have been killed since an anti-India insurgency broke out in 1989, is divided between India, Pakistan and China.India controls around 45 percent of the former princely state, Pakistan around a third and China the rest, a largely uninhabited slice of high-altitude desert.China has given no explanation for its move, but New Delhi took up the matter with the Chinese embassy and asked Beijing to stop discriminating against Indian nationals on the basis of their “ethnicity” and “domicile”.”How would they feel if India only offers a stamped visa to Tibetans while issuing visas on a separate paper for the applications residing in other parts of China,” an official from the Ministry of Home Affairs was quoted as saying by the Economic Times.Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama, who calls for greater autonomy and cultural freedom for Tibet, has lived in northern India since fleeing Tibet during a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959.China accuses the Dalai Lama of wanting independence for Tibet.Beijing’s new visa policy for Indian Kashmir may affect only a handful of residents and businessmen of the disputed Himalayan region but diplomatic implications of the Chinese move could affect relations between Beijing and New Delhi.China currently has little interest in stoking tensions, as it has been trying in recent years to reassure nervous Western nations that its economic rise will not be matched by military expansion. Diplomats like to talk of “peaceful development”.Then why is China issuing visas to residents of Indian Kashmir on loose sheets of paper and not on Indian passports?
A street vendor in Srinagar, Kashmir’s summer capital, sold hundreds of framed portraits of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in the last one week.Kashmiri separatists and many residents are all praise for Gaddafi after his maiden address to the U.N. General Assembly last week in which he said Kashmir should be an “independent state.”It was a diplomatic embarrassment for India but has Gaddafi’s U.N. speech actually won him an enthusiastic fan base in strife-weary Kashmir where Muslim militants are fighting New Delhi’s rule since 1989.The Libyan leader told the U.N. General Assembly last week that Kashmir should be an independent state, not Indian, not Pakistani.Last week, dozens of Kashmiris carried placards reading “Gaddafi The Lion of Desert II” referring to the 1981 Hollywood movie “Lion of the Desert”, which is about Omar Mukhtar, who led the rebellion against Italian rule in Libya and was captured and hanged in 1931.The movie on Omar Mukhtar encouraged rebellion in Kashmir in 1985. This is for the first time in recent times a Muslim leader outside the Indian sub-continent has advocated Kashmir’s complete independence both from India and Pakistan.The two countries claim the region in full but rule in parts.Encouraged by the speech, separatist leaders say Gaddafi’s statement in the U.N. General Assembly should serve as an eye-opener for Indian and Pakistani leaders.Despite two wars over Kashmir, India and Pakistan have so far failed to find a solution to the more than six-decade-old dispute over Kashmir.New Delhi has so far largely struggled to win the hearts and minds of the people of Kashmir, where anti-India sentiment still runs deep.Gaddafi also opposed the expansion of the U.N. Security Council by including countries like India. New Delhi, which has downplayed Gaddafi’s statement, has not yet reacted officially.Has Gaddafi’s U.N. speech on Kashmir’s “freedom” won him foes in India and friends in Kashmir?
Separatist violence in Kashmir has fallen to its lowest level since an anti-India insurgency began nearly two decades ago.However, people are still killed in daily firefights and occasional attacks by suspected militants, mostly in rural and mountainous areas.Is Pakistan still aiding militants fighting Indian troops in Kashmir, despite Islamabad’s assurances and a slow-moving peace process between New Delhi and Islamabad?Senior Indian security officials say Pakistan is still arming, training and sending militants to the disputed Kashmir region, making it difficult to end violence in the war-weary region.”In this situation we should not expect that terrorism can be finished,” said Kuldeep Khuda, police chief of Jammu and Kashmir state – arguably the most difficult policing job in the country.But Pakistan has consistently denied its involvement in abetting Kashmir militancy that has killed tens of thousands of people across the scenic region since 1989, has left nothing untouched and has brought untold misery to a once carefree society.Kashmiri residents and local leaders, both pro-India and separatists, attribute the fall of violence involving troops and Muslim militants to the India-Pakistan peace process which started in early 2004 following a ceasefire between two armies on the highly militarised Line of Control, which divides Kashmir between the two.But a sort of non-violent struggle in the form of near daily street protests could be potentially more challenging to New Delhi than militancy and could provide fertile ground for a new anti-India insurgency.A columnist putting the Kashmir question in the context of an emerging cold war in the region predicts renewed violence in Kashmir.”A new phase of deadly militancy is most likely to hit Kashmir again. This is not to press the panic button but to understand the outcome of fresh geopolitics in South and West Asia,” Syed Tassadque Hussain wrote in the daily newspaper Rising Kashmir.Is Kashmir headed toward renewed violence, even as Pakistan says it is cracking down on militant groups it has backed in the past to fight Indian troops in Kashmir?
During two decades of anti-India revolt, Kashmir has lost tens of thousands of people, property worth billions of dollars and much more.But the disputed Himalayan Valley has also lost over 1,500 working days (more than four years) to separatists’ shutdown calls in the past 20 years, dealing a crippling blow to its ailing economy.The tourism industry of the scenic Valley, ringed by Himalayan peaks and dotted with mirror-calm lakes, shimmering streams and dense pine and conifer forests, is frequently disrupted by strikes and violent protests over the separatist cause.But do war-weary Kashmiris have other means to raise their voice against human rights violations and resist New Delhi’s rule?According to the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the region loses 100 million rupees for every day of shutdown.Shutdowns have been a general expression of anti-India protests by separatists and militants since simmering discontent against Indian rule turned into a full-blown rebellion in 1989.But many people now question the rationale behind endless strikes.Local newspapers quoting residents of Kashmir say separatists are setting the wrong precedent by enforcing strikes after every “unfortunate incident”.”It appears the separatists are extracting revenge from innocent ordinary people rather than taking revenge from the perpetrators of these crimes,” Mohammad Ramzan, a shopkeeper was quoted as saying by The Himalayan Mail.But hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani says strikes are the only means to raise a voice against the unprecedented “Indian oppression on people of Kashmir” for the last 62 years.Protests in Kashmir have intensified since bodies of two women, aged 17 and 22, who locals say were abducted, raped and killed by security forces, were found on May 29.Shopian town in south Kashmir, where the bodies were found, has remained shut for a month.Kashmiri columnists say despite a sustained campaign against strikes, little has changed and people continue to follow the protest calls.”It is because hartals (shutdowns) are an unavoidable tool of resistance,” Javaid Malik wrote.The strife-torn region has suffered a lot due to frequent shutdowns that have severely dented Kashmir’s tourism industry and education.Do separatist leaders need to rethink this issue?
After India’s ruling Congress party won a decisive victory, Kashmir’s main separatist alliance urged New Delhi to resolve the decades-old dispute over the Himalayan region.
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, chairman of All Parties Hurriyat (Freedom) Conference, said India has a strong government after a long gap and it is time for a solution to the Kashmir issue.