Central & South Asia
Kashmir protests greet Indian MPs
Politicians cut short visit to Srinagar hospital after being heckled by pro-independence protesters.
Last Modified: 21 Sep 2010 10:04 GMT
A delegation of MPs met Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, left, at his home in Srinagar [Reuters]

Kashmiri protesters seeking independence from Indian rule have heckled a visiting team of legislators from New Delhi, forcing the politicians to cut short a visit to a hospital in Srinagar, the region's summer capital.

Angry protesters and patients' relatives greeted the members of parliament after they arrived at the main hospital to meet patients injured in three months of clashes between stone-throwing protesters and security forces, who often used live ammunition to quell the protests.

"The lawmakers were hurried away after just 10 minutes as people inside the hospital chanted slogans against rule from New Delhi," a witness who declined to be named told AFP news agency.

"Even some hospital staff and relatives of the injured by police firing were shouting 'Go India, Go back!' at the delegates, who looked very scared and shocked."

He said police at the hospital had beaten up and detained two teenage boys who were among the scores of people shouting at the MPs.

The politicians from New Delhi were part of an all-party delegation sent to Kashmir to difuse tensions in the region where more than 100 civilians have been killed during a wave of separatist protests.

Separatists boycott talks

A total of 37 politicians, led by P Chidambaram, India's home minister, were snubbed by many local Kashmiri leaders who want either autonomy or complete independence for the Muslim-majority region.

Syed Ali Geelani, a key separatist who has organised the almost daily protests, refused to attend Monday's talks at a conference centre in Srinagar.

Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik, who are considered to be moderate separatist leaders, also dismissed the delegation, describing it as a publicity stunt to disguise the government's lack of ideas on how to end the escalating unrest in Kashmir.

However, some MPs met a group of separatist leaders, who were put under house arrest on Monday.

Divya Gopalan, Al Jazeera's correspondent reporting from Srinigar, said India's right-wing BJP party criticised the delegation for visiting the separatist leaders at their homes.

'Break the ice'

"The move has shown certain cracks. The nationalist BJP party has said the talks should not have taken place as it wasn't a collective decision," she said.

"But one of the leaders we spoke to [who spoke with seperatists] said it was necessary to break the ice, so that the people of Kashmir would know they were listening to all issues from all sides.

"Sitaram Yechury, the Communist party leader, said they first want to restore normalcy, then whatever issues are there are can be discussed."

Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who met the delegation despite being dismissive of the visit, told the MPs: "We don't want to live in a constant state of fear and state terrorism, Kashmir is an international dispute and it has to be addressed according to the wishes of the people."

"The fact that the city is locked down under a curfew and residents cannot leave their houses while these politicians are here says everything," he said.

"They must meet the common people if they want to hear the real aspirations of Kashmiris. They already know the truth about the curfews and police brutality."

Geelani spurned New Delhi's offers of economic assistance for the state, saying "we want independence".

Indian accuses Pakistan of stoking the unrest in Kashmir, a charge vehemently denied by Islamabad.

Al Jazeera and agencies
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