Kashmir Separatists Urge Troop Pullout Before Talks

26 October 2009
Reuters
Sheikh Mushtaq

Srinagar: 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)