August 2000 News

Kashmiris say peace chance lost, violence ahead

8 August 2000
The Indian Express

Srinagar: A wave of disappointment swept across Indian-controlled Kashmir on Tuesday after a leading militant group called off its ceasefire, and many said they feared more violence lay ahead. ''We had a chance to restore peace in the blood-soaked valley and we lost it,'' said Shabir Ahmad Shah, a senior separatist leader. ''I blame the Indian authorities, who changed their stand five times in five days.'' The pro-Pakistan Hizbul Mujahideen, which has long been at the forefront of the separatist insurgency in India''s Jammu and Kashmir state, announced in Islamabad that the unilateral truce it had declared on July 24 had ended. Hizbul chief Syed Salahuddin said his group had ended the ceasefire because India refused to hold talks involving both representatives of the Kashmiri people and Pakistan, and urged his commanders back into action. Noor Ahmad Baba, head of the political science department of Kashmir University in Srinagar, said that in more than a decade of violent rebellion there had never been a better chance for peace. ''But there were already difficulties in the process because perceptions on the two sides diverged,'' he said. ''I''m afraid it may lead to a surge in violence.'' KASHMIRIS BLAME INDIA At least 30,000 people have died in the rebellion against Indian rule in Kashmir. New Delhi says Pakistan sponsors militancy in Jammu and Kashmir state, a charge its arch-rival denies. India has refused to hold talks with Pakistan until its neighbour stops what it says is ''cross-border terrorism''. India controls about 45 percent of the disputed Himalayan territory comprising the regions of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. Pakistan holds just over a third of the territory and China controls the remainder. New Delhi says the whole of the region belongs to India. Pakistan supports the Kashmir separatist movement, while pushing for a U.N.-sponsored plebiscite to determine whether the former princely state should be folded into India or Pakistan. In the streets of Srinagar, summer capital of India''s only Moslem-majority state, Kashmiris felt it was New Delhi''s inflexibility that had led to the end of the ceasefire. ''It was quite expected that the talks would fail,'' said student Adeel Shafi. ''Had India been sincere the results would have been positive. This was prime time to give peace a chance. Unfortunately we have lost this chance.'' Altaf Ahmad, an engineer, also pointed a finger of blame at India, and said the Kashmiri people were the biggest losers. ''Hizbul Mujahideen has done the right thing,'' said Mahmooda Begum, a housewife. ''Let them fight back and decide Kashmir''s fate once and for all.'' Reuters report.


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