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Interlocutors meet Abbas Ansari

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JammuKashmir watch

Srinagar, New Delhi’s interlocutors on Kashmir disclosed that in their first ‘formal’ meeting with separatist leadership, senior Hurriyat (M) leader and chairman of Itihad-ul-Muslimeen, Maulana Abbas Ansari on Wednesday showed the willingness to engage with Government of India if New Delhi took steps for creating a “conducive atmosphere”.

“This morning the interlocutors met Maulana Abbas Ansari , the chairman of Itihadul Muslimeen, at his residence to discuss ways and means to carry forward the dialogue process which will lead to a peaceful settlement of Jammu and Kashmir issue. The discussion lasting little over an hour was conducted in a cordial and constructive spirit. Maualana Ansari informed us that he favoured talks with the GOI to arrive at such a settlement. It had to be held at an appropriate level with the representatives of separatist groups and in the presence of interlocutors,” veteran journalist, Dileep Padgaonkar, flanked by the other two interlocutors- told reporters during a press conference here.

He said the meeting was arranged by an “intermediary”, terming it as a success for “the dialogue process, for all those in state and beyond who want peaceful settlement of the Jammu and Kashmir issue.”

“This is our first formal interaction with a top separatist leader, and Maulana Abbas has shown commitment to peace in the past,” he said.

According to Padgaonkar, Maualana Ansari stressed that perceptible changes on the ground were required to inculcate trust in people of Jammu and Kashmir. “Maulana Abbas said that the initial talks should focus on the four point agenda of Hurriyat(M) and on steps for conducive atmospheres,” Padgaonkar said .

“Abbas Ansari said that the New Delhi should allow Hurriyat(M) leaders to visit Pakistan to persuade the leaders there as well as Pakistan Administered Kashmir to get all the stake holders agree on a settlement that would satisfy all,” he added.

Padgaonkar said that Ansari and the interlocutors agreed to meet again to ensure “that dialogue process would be sustained.”

“This alone would guarantee that incremental progress is made to reach a political settlement in the state within a specified time frame. Maulana Abbas reiterated that people of Jammu and Kashmir were the real stake holders,” he said.

In response to a query, Padgaonkar said the interlocutors had no “ego problem in meeting separatists, and the moment they get “any sort of signal we would be willing to meet them.”
Commenting on the two-day round table conference, Padgaonkar said a wide range of opinions came up and the focus of the meet was on getting insight about a possible political solution of Jammu and Kashmir

“Close to 50 academics, media commentators, civil society activists, and representatives of political parties from all the regions of Jammu and Kashmir have reached a broad consensus on the key principles and ideas that should form the basis of a political settlement of the state. Participants at the two day round table conference strongly emphasized their commitment to democracy, pluralism and rule of law and by that same token they rejected the use of violence, religious extremism, regional chauvinism to achieve political ends,” he said.

“They were of the view that the whole focus of political settlement should be restoration of political rights of the people. And for the primary stake holders , their physical, psychological, economic , political, cultural insecurities have to be addressed to enable them to lead a peaceful life with honour and dignity,” Padgaonkar said.

“To attain this objective, the participants stressed that it would be of utmost importance to maintain the unity and territorial integrity of the state and to uphold its special status in the Indian union in letter and spirit. Attempts to bifurcate and trifurcate the state would create more problems, division among communal lines pressure on minorities,” he said.

He said the participants were for the State to be vested with powers in lieu of Article 370, roads between two parts without bureaucratic hassles, compensation for water resources, improving governance.

On a query about their statement on security forces having a stake in the state, Padgoankar said, “Security forces do have a stake in the state in the sense that they are deployed in Kashmir to take care of India’s internal and external security interest.”

He said the interlocutors had only discussed educational matters with slain Jamiat chief Moulana Showkat Ahmad Shah.

Kashmir rebels kill two Indian policemen

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SRINAGAR: Suspected Muslim militants shot dead two policemen on Wednesday in the latest violence to strike revolt-hit Indian Kashmir, police said.

The attacks were the first since US President Barack Obama said in New Delhi Monday that Washington could not “impose” a solution on India and Pakistan’s dispute over Kashmir – which has sparked two wars between the neighbours.

“Pistol-wielding militants walked up to the policemen and shot them dead at point-blank range,” a police spokesman said.

The shootings took place in Patan town, 30 kilometers (18 miles) south of Indian Kashmir summer capital of Srinagar.

“The militants seized the rifles of the dead policemen and fled the scene,” the spokesman said.

Security forces sealed the area and launched a search to “arrest or eliminate” the militants involved in the attack.

Five hurt as security forces fire on Indian Kashmir protest

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SRINAGAR, India – Five people were wounded Tuesday when Indian security forces opened fire on protesters who attacked their vehicles with stones during a demonstration against Indian rule, police said.

An Indian Central Reserve Police Force serviceman stops a motercyclist during a curfew in Srinagar

“Security forces had to open fire to ward off violent protesters who attacked security force vehicles with stones and bricks,” a police officer said, asking not to be named.

The incident took place in southern Pulwama district.

Four more people, including two policemen, were injured in two separate clashes between police and stone-throwing protesters elsewhere in Muslim-majority Kashmir valley, the officer said.

Since a wave of violent anti-India protests began in June, 111 people have been killed by security forces, mostly when they have opened fire on stone-throwing protesters during some of the biggest pro-freedom demonstrations in two decades.

Indian Kashmir has been under rolling curfews and strikes since the protests began on June 11, when a 17-year old student was killed by a police teargas shell in Srinagar.

On Tuesday, a curfew was imposed in parts of Indian Kashmir summer capital Srinagar to pre-empt a separatist march, police said.

In other parts of Srinagar, where a curfew was not in force, a separatist strike closed down shops and businesses.

The fresh violence came as Indian experts trying to defuse tensions in Kashmir have been holding a series of talks, despite opposition by separatists who have been spearheading the recent protests.

Home Minister P. Chidambaram said last week that the government had selected senior journalist Dilip Padgaonkar and professors M.M. Ansari and Radha Kumar to hold talks with separatists and other people in the troubled state.

The team arrived in Indian Kashmir summer capital Srinagar on Saturday.

They have held talks with jailed militants, university students, pro-India politicians, ordinary citizens and the region’s chief minister, Omar Abdullah.

I pity the nation that needs to jail those who ask for justice: Arundhati Roy

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Arundhati Roy

“I write this from Srinagar, Kashmir. This morning’s papers say that I may be arrested on charges of sedition for what I have said at recent public meetings on Kashmir. I said what millions of people here say every day. I said what I, as well as other commentators have written and said for years. Anybody who cares to read the transcripts of my speeches will see that they were fundamentally a call for justice. I spoke about justice for the people of Kashmir who live under one of the most brutal military occupations in the world; for Kashmiri Pandits who live out the tragedy of having been driven out of their homeland; for Dalit soldiers killed in Kashmir whose graves I visited on garbage heaps in their villages in Cuddalore; for the Indian poor who pay the price of this occupation in material ways and who are now learning to live in the terror of what is becoming a police state.

Writer-activist Arundhati Roy at Geelani’s convention in Delhi.

Yesterday I traveled to Shopian, the apple-town in South Kashmir which had remained closed for 47 days last year in protest against the brutal rape and murder of Asiya and Nilofer, the young women whose bodies were found in a shallow stream near their homes and whose murderers have still not been brought to justice. I met Shakeel, who is Nilofer’s husband and Asiya’s brother. We sat in a circle of people crazed with grief and anger who had lost hope that they would ever get ‘insaf’-justice-from India, and now believed that Azadi-freedom- was their only hope. I met young stone pelters who had been shot through their eyes. I traveled with a young man who told me how three of his friends, teenagers in Anantnag district, had been taken into custody and had their finger-nails pulled out as punishment for throwing stones.

In the papers some have accused me of giving ‘hate-speeches’, of wanting India to break up. On the contrary, what I say comes from love and pride. It comes from not wanting people to be killed, raped, imprisoned or have their finger-nails pulled out in order to force them to say they are Indians. It comes from wanting to live in a society that is striving to be a just one. Pity the nation that has to silence its writers for speaking their minds. Pity the nation that needs to jail those who ask for justice, while communal killers, mass murderers, corporate scamsters, looters, rapists, and those who prey on the poorest of the poor, roam free.”

Life between the curfews in Indian Kashmir

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By Ben Sheppard

SRINAGAR, India – For much of the summer, Srinagar in Indian Kashmir has been a ghost town: all shops shut, streets deserted, and eerily silent. Until the curfew is lifted for just a few hours.

Stalls selling fruit spring up on every corner, noisy traffic jams fill the lanes, and residents rush out to buy fresh food, medicines and toys for their children.

Srinagar is the summer capital of Kashmir, a Muslim-majority region that has endured more than three months of deadly clashes between security forces and protesters who want Kashmir to be independent from India.

To thwart public unrest authorities impose curfews that can last for several days at a time. Anyone caught outside risks being beaten or shot by paramilitary troops and police.

Srinagar’s one million residents can still be found down back alleys, where men lean in doorways arguing about politics, while their families watch endless television or play cards inside.

“It’s miserable because we are living under military occupation,” said Arif Jan, 40, a shopkeeper in Nowhatta district near the town’s biggest mosque.

“My family stocks up on rice and lentils when we can. That is how we live.”

For Showkat Ahmed, the curfew meant he could only get to his wedding with a special permit and a police escort.

Sitting nervously in the back of a red Maruti hatchback decked out in plastic flowers, Ahmed was driven at high speed through the empty town in the middle of the afternoon to meet his bride.

“The curfew means my sisters can’t even make it to my wedding,” Ahmed, a 28-year-old shawlmaker, said. “I am worried about my relatives at home and want to get the marriage ceremony over so I can return to them.”

Normally Kashmiri weddings are night-long affairs with hundreds of guests. But no celebrations had been organised for Ahmed and his new wife. “In the future, I just want a normal life,” he said.

Shops selling wedding decorations are among the first to open their doors when curfew restrictions are briefly lifted, but business is grim.

“I have waited 10 days for this place to open so I can buy pieces for my brother’s costume,” said Ali Wangnoo, 23. “But I don’t actually know whether his wedding is going to happen. Kashmir is a mess.”

Mohammed Yunus, the shop owner, said he had been closed for three weeks until Tuesday when the curfew was relaxed for just four hours.

Such conditions for ordinary people mean the tourism industry has also been decimated.

Srinagar boasts Mughal gardens, a mild summer climate and elegant houseboats sitting on Lake Dal in front of mist-wreathed mountains.

Before the rebellion against Indian rule erupted in 1989, travellers from around the world were drawn to Kashmir’s culture and scenery.

Many returned after India and Pakistan, who have fought two wars over control of the region, began peace talks in 2003 and as militant attacks dropped dramatically.

But any optimism has disappeared with more than 100 civilians killed since June 11 across Kashmir as security forces fire live rounds at stone-throwing anti-India protesters.

“On the 600-700 houseboats there is hardly one tourist. I haven’t had a single guest since the violence broke out in June,” said Rashid Dongola, 55, owner of the Hilton Kashmir houseboat.

As soon as the curfew is lifted, a few hand-paddled boats cross the serene lake carrying vegetables to market. Scores of boats laden with shawls and colourful papier-mache boxes used to vie for tourists’ attention.

Now there are none.

“This should be high season for us,” said Dongola, sitting in his houseboat’s grand wood-panelled interior. “My boat is rotting here and I can’t afford repairs.”

With schools shut for months and hospitals running short of supplies, the price of living under the curfew is high. But few Kashmiris doubt their cause.

“We know what we want,” said Sajjad, who runs a convenience store in the old town. “In the cause of Azadi (freedom) we choose to face the bullets, and we give up the chance of living an easy life.”

EU concerned over violence

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By: Kamran Yousaf

ISLAMABAD: The European Union (EU) has expressed grave concerns over the violence in Indian Kashmir, calling for an early resolution for the decades-old problem of poisoned relations between Pakistan and India.

Kashmiri people shout anti-India slogans during the funeral of a Kashmiri youth, Fayaz Ahmad, in Srinagar September 18, 2010.

“We are very concerned about the violence in Kashmir and we have conveyed this to India through diplomatic channels,” the EU Ambassador to Pakistan Jan De Kok told reporters here on Wednesday.

The EU, for the first time, publicly aired its concern since the beginning of anti-India demonstrations in June this year in Kashmir, which have already killed over 100 people.

Speaking at a joint news conference with Belgian Ambassador Hans Christian Kint, the EU envoy urged the two countries to find peaceful ways to resolve the Kashmir problem. However, he made it clear that the 27-nation bloc did not intend to mediate between Pakistan and India on Kashmir issue.

Pakistan also stepped up diplomatic efforts to put pressure on India.

On Tuesday Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi urged the United States to pressure India over Kashmir, saying that recent unrest showed that New Delhi, and not Islamabad, was to blame for trouble in the Himalayan territory.

He is likely to meet his Indian counterpart SM Krishna later this month in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session. Foreign office officials say the foreign minister will certainly take up the issue of renewed violence in Kashmir with his Indian counterpart.

Meanwhile, the Belgian Ambassador, whose country currently holds the EU Presidency, said Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani will attend the Asia-Europe summit to be held in Brussels on October 4 and 5. The summit will be attended by 48 heads of states and governments to discuss a host of issues confronting the two regions and the world at large, the ambassador added.

He said the meeting of the Friends of Democratic Pakistan will also take place in Brussels on October 14 and 15 to discuss the country’s needs in the wake of devastating floods.

Hurriyat leaders held before talks

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HELD SRINAGAR: The All Party delegation of Indian Parliament met Hurriyat leaders in occupied Kashmir on Monday. First, the Hurriyat leaders had refused to meet the Indian delegation. Later, however, members of the delegation met Hurriyat leaders Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik

The Indian delegation met Mirwaiz Umar Farooq at his residence, where he was under house arrest. Mirwaiz had tied black band around his arm as a protest. Mirwaiz was invited for black band around his arm as a protest. Mirwaiz was invited for talks at Sunday night. However, he was put under house arrest at Monday morning. While talking to media at outside his house under strict police security, he termed the meeting of Indian Parliamentary delegation as a joke. He said that on the one hand he received invitation for talks and on the other hand it was the order of the police not to go out from the house.

The Hurriyat leaders want the demilitarisation of the held Kashmir Valley, where India has more than half a million men under arms; they want emergency laws to be repealed; and they want what they call political prisoners to be released and hold talks with Kashmiri leaders and Pakistan for the solution of Kashmir issue.

Army HQ attacked in held Kashmir: five protesters killed

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SRINAGAR: Hundreds of stone-throwing protesters battled police in held Kashmir on Tuesday, a day after one of the worst single episodes of violence in two decades of freedom protests.

Eighteen people were killed, nearly all of them in police firing, on Monday during anti-India demonstrations in the disputed region, increasing the pressure on the government to tackle the protests that have simmered through the summer.

In the northern town of Baramulla and in Zainakote near Srinagar, police killed five Kashmiris, after protesters attacked a battalion headquarter on Tuesday. According to NNI, five kashmiris were martyred.

Heavily-armed police patrolled the streets of Srinagar, and loudspeakers mounted on police vehicles asked residents to stay indoors in a bid to head off more protests. Police also fired teargas shells and warning shots after protesters attacked security forces at several locations across the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley. All flights to the city were cancelled due to security fears, the first time in 11 years.

Indian forces kill 10 Kashmiris

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SRINAGAR, India – Indian troops killed nine suspected militants as they tried to cross the de facto border with Pakistan that divides the volatile region of Kashmir, the army said Monday.

An Indian policeman fires a teargas shell towards Kashmiri protestors in Srinigar

Elsewhere in Indian-controlled Kashmir fresh violence left a boy dead and 12 injured when police opened fire on anti-India protesters in separate clashes.

“The army has foiled a major infiltration attempt by killing nine militants who were trying to infiltrate into (Indian) Kashmir from across the Line of Control (LoC),” army spokesman J.S. Brar told AFP.

He said a gun battle erupted late Sunday in western Uri sector and continued throughout the night after troops noticed a group of militants trying to sneak in under the cover of darkness.

“The operation is still continuing in the dense forests,” Brar said, adding army reinforcements had been sent to the scene of the fighting.

India has in the past accused the Pakistani army of providing covering fire for infiltrating militants. Islamabad denies the charge.

India and Pakistan agreed to a ceasefire along the LoC in 2003 and began a peace process in 2004. Since then there have been sporadic clashes with both sides accusing each other of violating the truce.

A young Muslim boy was killed and four others injured when police opened fire to disperse stone-throwing protesters during an anti-India demonstration in southern Anantnag town Monday evening, police said.

The death brought more people out on the streets chanting slogans such as “Blood for blood!”

In Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian Kashmir, six people were injured when police opened fire.

Police said the incident occurred when a group of protesters hurled stones at police and shouted slogans. Residents said there were no protests when the shots were fired.

Doctors said one of the injured was in serious condition. Two of the wounded were relatives of senior separatist Yasin Malik.

The policeman who opened fire has been suspended, pending an inquiry, a police statement said.

Two more stone-hurling protesters were injured in southern Pulwama district when police opened fire at violent demonstrators, police said.

Tensions have been threatening to boil over during 11 weeks of demonstrations with 65 protesters and bystanders killed in the Muslim-majority region, where anti-India feelings run deep.

Stepped up Indian state terrorism in IHK denounced

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Kashmir Media Service

Srinagar: In occupied Kashmir, the pro-freedom leaders and organisations have strongly condemned the stepped up Indian state terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir and described the recent killings of innocent youth by Indian troops as barbaric. They also labeled as preposterous and misleading the reports in which Pakistan’s ISI and South Asian terror group Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) have been accused of fomenting unrest in occupied Kashmir.

Leader of the All Parties Hurriyet Conference, Yasmeen Raja, in a statement issued in Srinagar said that the occupation authorities were trying to suppress the liberation movement through use of brute force but they would never succeed in their nefarious designs. Paying rich tributes to the youth recently martyred in Islamabad town by the troops, she said that India was committing the worst kind of human rights violations in the occupied territory. She said that the troops were even targeting peaceful demonstrators to prevent Kashmiris from continuing their just right to self-determination. She said no amount of blame on foreign and external forces will fool the Kashmiri people, and that India must recognize the right to liberty of the Kashmiris and their right to honor and to a peaceful life. She said it was the fundamental right of Kashmiri people to protest against wanton killing of Kashmiri youth and the dishonoring of Kashmiri women by Indian troops who feel they are not answerable to anyone under the AFSPA.

On the other hand, the spokesman of Jamaat-e-Islami of occupied Kashmir in a statement issued in Srinagar expressed serious concern over the killings of innocent youth by the troops. He said that the occupation troops were committing genocide in the territory under a planned conspiracy. The spokesman also appealed the international human rights organisation to take notice of gross violations of human rights in the occupied territory and put pressure on India to resolve the Kashmir dispute in accordance with the Kashmiris’ aspirations.

Meanwhile, the Mahaz-e-Azadi in a statement in Srinagar denounced the killing of innocent teenagers by Indian troops in occupied Kashmir and reiterated that the mission of Kashmiri martyrs would be taken to logical end.