Indian Bid to Restore Peace in Kashmir ‘Deceptive Tactic’: Separatists

Amin Masoodi
Srinagar, India
2016-08-25
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160825-IN-kashmir-620.jpg Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh (left), joined by Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, speaks to reporters in Srinagar, Aug. 25, 2016.
Courtesy Amin War

Separatist factions in Indian-administered Kashmir on Thursday rejected the government’s offer of a dialogue, even as New Delhi sought to end a weeks-long logjam following the killing of a separatist leader last month.

“We reject the assertion by the Indian government that Kashmir is an integral part of India. We are not ready to engage in a dialogue under India’s constitution,” Syed Ali Shah Geelani, a senior member of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, an alliance of 26 separatist groups seeking Kashmir’s independence since 1993, told BenarNews.

“If it really intends to resolve the vexed issue by way of a meaningful dialogue, India must first accept Kashmir as a disputed territory. It should put an end to civilian killings in Kashmir and start the process of demilitarization,” he said.

Geelani made those remarks just hours after Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who wrapped up his two-day visit to the conflict-torn Jammu and Kashmir state, told reporters in Srinagar on Thursday that New Delhi was ready to hold talks with anyone as long as they were within the parameters of his country’s constitution.

Singh’s visit to the Himalayan region – claimed in its entirety by India and its arch rival, Pakistan – came amid continuing clashes between pro-freedom protesters and the Indian armed forces since the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani on July 8.

The latest cycle of violence has left 68 people dead, including two security personnel, and left more than 7,000 injured in the Kashmir Valley, according to official figures.

On Thursday, security forces fired tear gas shells to disperse a mob in Bandipora district, injuring a protester. A day earlier, one person died and at least 40 others were wounded when security personnel fired pellets to quell a protest in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district, where a grenade attack injured nine policemen.

During the last seven weeks, deaths and injuries have been caused by pellets fired by security forces, Singh conceded.

“The use of pellet-firing shotguns was considered non-lethal. But as we have been seeing, that is not the case,” Singh said, adding that an alternative method to deal with stone-pelting protesters will be implemented soon. He did not give details about the alternative.

“We have already directed our security forces to exercise maximum restraint. Among those injured are 4,500 of our security personnel,” he said.

India’s future includes Kashmir

The Indian-controlled side of Kashmir, a Himalayan region claimed by both India and Pakistan, has endured a separatist insurgency that has claimed more than 70,000 lives since the late 1980s.

“I appeal to my Kashmiri brothers and sisters to help restore peace. Don’t spoil the future of your children by coaxing them to throw stones at our security personnel,” Singh said.

“We can’t think of India’s future without Kashmir’s future. The people of India are pained by the killings in Kashmir. Children who should have pens, books and computers in their hands, are now holding stones,” he said.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, who joined Singh at the press conference, said that only a few people were responsible for the violence.

“I can tell you that 95 percent of the Kashmiri people want a peaceful solution to the issue through dialogue. It’s the 5 percent of anti-national miscreants who are provoking children to indulge in violence against Indian security forces,” Mufti said.

Separatist skepticism

But Asiya Andrabi, who heads the region’s only all-women separatist group, Dukhtaran-e-Millat, described the address by the home minister and state chief minister as meaningless.

“His (Singh’s) visit is nothing but a deceptive tactic to make the international community believe that the Indian government is concerned about the prevailing situation in Kashmir,” she told BenarNews.

“Mufti states that only 5 percent of Kashmiris are agitating. It is a clear indication that she has assumed the chief minister’s post by selling civilian lives to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP),” Andrabi said, referring to the alliance between Mufti’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and India’s ruling nationalist party.

Meanwhile, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, chairman of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, was detained late Thursday and taken to a police station near Hazratbal, after he called for a protest march on Friday to Eidgah, a public square in downtown Srinagar, police confirmed.

Farooq, who has claimed to be under house arrest since Wani’s killing, was taken to a police station in Srinagar’s Hazratbal area, according to News World India.

Terming the unrest in Kashmir a political problem that required a political solution, Farooq on Wednesday said all stakeholders, including Pakistan should be included in any proposed dialogue.

“It’s always separatists, Pakistan or traitors who are blamed (for problems in the valley) and never the Indian establishment,” he said.

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