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News Analysis: Indian-controlled Kashmir chief minister advocates dialogue with separatists to contain situation

Xinhua, April 24, 2017 Adjust font size:

The Chief Minister of Indian-controlled Kashmir Mehbooba Mufti Monday met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging him to resume talks with separatists to help normalize situation in the restive region.

Mufti met Modi in New Delhi to discuss prevailing situation in the region especially in the backdrop of an increase in violence and anti-India protests in Indian-controlled Kashmir. The hard-pressed Mufti invoked former Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to persuade Modi to resume the dialogue process in order to achieve peace.

"We have to pick up threads from where Vajpayee has left to move forward, otherwise there remains no chance to see improvement of situation in Kashmir," Mufti said.

The month of April saw violence in the region spiralling out to such an extent that Indian Election Commission had to postpone the scheduled elections in Anantnag constituency by a month, fearing an escalation.

On April 9, the day of polling for Indian elections in Srinagar constituency, massive anti-India protests were staged. The agitated youth destroyed electronic voting machines, locked polling stations and chased paramilitary personnel from the polling booths at some places. Eight people were killed and over 200 people including government force personnel injured in the daylong clashes.

Voter turnout in Srinagar constituency was recorded 7 percent, the lowest in decades. Even a re-poll at some places recorded mere 2 percent turnout.

The situation sent alarm bells ringing for New Delhi.

Mufti said there was a need to create an atmosphere for dialogue in the region for government cannot afford confrontation with its people.

Mufti's meeting with Modi preceded with the prime minister calling upon all the chief ministers in Indian states to ensure safety of Kashmiris especially the students.

Last week some Kashmiri students were attacked by locals in western Indian state of in Rajasthan. Separately threatening banners surfaced on the mega bill boards in Uttar Pradesh asking Kashmiris to leave. Hundreds of Kashmiris either students or businessmen are currently living in different Indian states. Many others are also working in these states in government as well as private sectors to earn livelihood.

Reports said the fresh outrage against Kashmiris in some states was evident over the attacks of stone pelting on Indian paramilitary troopers in the restive region.

While Mufti was in New Delhi, militants gunned down a political leader belonging to her party in Pulwama district, about 30 km south of Srinagar city, the summer capital of Indian-controlled Kashmir.

A week ago gunmen killed a political worker of the party and wounded another in the district. Last week an advocate having affiliation with opposition National Conference was gunned down at his residence in adjacent Shopian district.

As the violence graph shows upward trend in Indian-controlled Kashmir, Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh Monday reviewed Kashmir situation with top security officials at a high level meeting in New Delhi. The meeting was attended by India's national security advisor Ajit Doval, home secretary and India's intelligence chiefs.

Anti-India sentiment runs deep in the psyche of majority of Kashmiris. Irate residents defying curfew and restrictions take to roads and clash with police. The youth throw stones and brickbats on contingents of police and paramilitary, who respond by firing tear smoke shells, pellets and bullets, which often proves fatal.

Mufti also called upon Singh and held a meeting with him to discuss current situation in the restive region.

"In a separate meeting with Rajnath Singh, chief minister also underlined the urgent need for initiating dialogue with all shades of opinion," a local government spokesman said.

A separatist movement and guerilla war challenging New Delhi's rule is going on in Indian-controlled Kashmir since 1989.

Kashmir, the Himalayan region divided between India and Pakistan is claimed by both in full. Since their independence from Britain, the two countries have fought three wars, two exclusively over Kashmir.

Last year the region has been witnessing the largest anti-India protests, in recent years following the killing of a popular militant commander in a gunfight with Indian troops.

The region observed a complete strike demanding end to New Delhi's rule for months together. Clashes between civilian protesters and government forces resulted in killing of over 90 people mostly young men and children, besides injuries to at least 12,000 others. Endit