India PM urges Kashmir crisis talks

Manmohan Singh seeks all-party meeting as latest clashes in region claim 15 lives.

    Crowds threw stones at Indian security forces during protests on Tuesday [EPA]

    An all-party conference organised the previous day by Shivraj Patil, the Indian home minister, failed to arrive at an agreement.

    "The leaders met again on Tuesday but could not arrive at a workable formula or solution that would appease the people," a senior Indian government official said.

    In the first meeting on August 5, Singh had appealed for calm and decided to send a delegation to Jammu and Kashmir.

    Land transfer furore

    The recent protests began after the Kashmiri government promised to give 40 hectares of forest land in northern Kashmir to the Amarnath shrine board, a trust that runs Amarnath, a cave shrine visited by Hindu pilgrims.

    But the government then backed down from its decision, which in turn angered many Hindus in Jammu.

    An all-party delegation has held talks with Kashmiri politicians and the Amarnath Sangharsh Samiti, a group spearheading the agitation in Jammu to press for restoration of the land transfer to the Amarnath shrine board.

    The demand is fiercely opposed by Kashmir's separatist leaders.

    The dispute has set off an  wave of protests, shutdowns and violence - first in the Kashmir valley, then in Jammu - and now back in the valley.

    Indian security forces shot dead at least 13 people on Tuesday during protests by Muslims in Kashmir against what they call the trade economic blockade by Jammu's Hindus.

    Violence also erupted in Jammu on Tuesday, where two people were killed and several injured in clashes between Hindus and Muslims.

    Separatist's death

    The violence followed the death of Sheikh Abdul Aziz, a separatist leader, allegedly at the hands of Indian police as he was trying to lead Muslim traders into Pakistan.

    His funeral was held on Tuesday, carried out by members of the All Parties Hurriyat [Freedom] Conference, Kashmir's main separatist alliance.

    Abdul Aziz's body was driven through Srinagar, accompanied by an estimated 50,000 residents, many of whom chanted "down with security forces, we want freedom" and "we will spill blood for blood".

    Mourners and protesters broke through a police cordon and freed two separatist leaders who were under house arrest, so they could lead the funeral prayers.

    'Shun violence'

    One of the leaders, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who is the chairman of moderate faction of Hurriyat Conference, asked people not to resort to violence while protesting.

    "I appeal to people not to indulge in violence. Our agitation is genuine and we should not be branded as rioters," he said.

    Farooq asked supporters not to attack any public or private property or persons belonging to opposing political ideologies or members of minority communities.

    Farooq also said a "complete strike" will be observed in the next three days in protest against the killing of "peaceful" protesters.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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