Kashmir Separatist Says Protests Will Continue20 September 2010
Srinagar: One of the main separatist leaders in Indian-administered Kashmir says protests against Indian rule will carry on unless his main demands are met. Syed Ali Shah Geelani told the BBC he wanted the withdrawal of Indian security forces from the region and the repeal of emergency laws. He is one of three influential separatists who met members of an all-party delegation of Indians MPs. More than 100 people have been killed in violent protests since June. Security forces have frequently opened fire with live ammunition to disperse groups of stone-throwing protesters angry at India's rule over the disputed region. In the latest violence in the mainly-Muslim valley, five people were injured on Monday in clashes with the army outside of the town of Sopore. A 22-year-old woman was killed in Sopore at the weekend during clashes between police and protesters, as residents continued to defy a curfew, now in its eighth day. Mr Geelani had refused to meet the full party of nearly 40 visiting lawmakers but a group of five of the MPs visited him at his residence, where he is under house arrest. Mr Geelani is the leads the hardline faction of the Hurriyat Conference (HC), a separatist alliance. Speaking after the meeting with the MPs, he told the BBC the protests were peaceful and would continue unless his group's demands were met. He said he wanted the Indian government to declare Kashmir an international dispute, withdraw troops from the region, revoke the emergency powers given to the security forces and release political prisoners. Two other separatist leaders were also visited by MPs from the delegation - Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, the head of the moderate wing of the HC, who is also under house arrest, and Yasin Malik, the moderate leader of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front. All three men had earlier refused to meet the visiting delegation. They were told by the MPs that Kashmir was an integral part of India and there was no question of its succession. But Mr Farooq was told by the group that visited him that all other issues could be discussed. The delegation is led by Indian Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram and includes lawmakers from all major national parties. The government announced the all-party fact-finding mission last week after an emergency meeting in the capital, Delhi. The BBC's Altaf Hussain in Indian-administered Kashmir's main city of Srinagar says the Indian government is trying to build a consensus among the country's major parties on how to deal with the situation. During their two-day visit, the delegation is consulting members of the public and Kashmiri politicians and business leaders in the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley. But there is resentment among many people who want to meet the visitors, but have so far been unable to do so because the valley remains under strict curfew. Until visiting the separatist leaders, the delegation had only met pro-India politicians and business leaders.