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Prime Minister reaches out to Kashmiris
Tuesday, June 08, 2010 12:11:46 PM, Agencies
Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh during 5th Convention of Sher-e-Kashmir University. On his left is J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah (EPA)
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Srinagar: Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh again tried to reach out to Kashmiri separatists on Monday, saying his government was prepared to talk to any group opposed to terrorism and violence in the embattled region where militants have been fighting to end Indian rule.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made a similar offer last month, with little headway.
His two-day visit to Srinagar, the main city in the Indian Kashmir, was greeted by a general strike on Monday called by the main separatist group, whose leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani warned Singh that “Kashmiris continue to detest India’s military occupation.” Militant separatist groups have been fighting against Indian rule since 1989.
Singh said that infiltration by insurgents from Pakistan into the Indian portion of Kashmir from Pakistan had continued to spread terrorism despite assurances by Islamabad.
“Meaningful talks between the two countries, which can lead to the resolution of old issues, are possible only when Pakistan doesn’t let its territory be used for acts of terror against India,” he said.
India accuses Pakistan of training and arming insurgents to fight Indian forces in Kashmir, a charge Islamabad denies.
Singh also referred to complaints of human rights abuses by Indian security forces in Kashmir and promised to punish those guilty.
“I’m aware of some complaints related to human rights,” he said.
“Sometimes innocent civilians have to suffer, but whenever such incidents happen it becomes necessary to act against those responsible for them.”
Shops, schools and government offices shut down as thousands of armed police and paramilitary soldiers patrolled the streets of Srinagar and sealed off areas visited by Singh.
Security forces warned residents to stay at home as they laid razor wires and erected road checkpoints to foil protests by separatists challenging Indian rule, a police officer said.
He said security forces were on maximum alert.
Road traffic was sparse with buses staying off the roads and few private cars venturing out.
The call to strike was issued by Geelani, a key leader of Kashmir’s separatist alliance, the All-Parties Hurriyat Conference.
“Holding guns to their heads, India wants Kashmiris to surrender. But Manmohan Singh should know that this policy has failed here and Kashmiris continue to detest India’s military occupation,” Geelani said in a statement.
Omar Abdullah, Indian Kashmir’s top elected official, said Singh’s visit was part of a comprehensive agenda of development and progress in the region.
“I’m sure there will be a political element built into his agenda as well,” he said.
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