NEW DELHI, (Xinhua) –Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday convened an all party meeting to find a solution to end the ongoing protests in restive Indian-controlled Kashmir, officials said.
During the closed door meeting, representatives of political parties impressed upon the government to immediately start confidence building measures and initiate talks with all stakeholders aimed at restoring peace and normalcy in the region that is on boil.
Apart from senior ministers in the Modi government, former prime minister Manmohan Singh, Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Mallikarjun Kharge, Samajwadi party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav, CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury and Sharad Yadav of JD(U) attended the meeting.
Separatist leaders in the region are critical of New Delhi’s posturing and have been intensifying protest calendars to build pressure on the Indian government to call for talks aimed at resolving Kashmir issue.
The authorities in Indian-controlled Kashmir on Friday extended curfew and restrictions in Muslim majority areas of the region.
Police and paramilitary troopers closed all routes leading to the Jamia Masjid (grand mosque) in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian-controlled Kashmir. Residents said for the fifth consecutive Friday the mosque was kept out of bounds for the public.
“A heavy deployment of police and paramilitary cordoned off the mosque area to prevent people from entering it,” Mohammed Yasin, a resident said over telephone.
The local government has detained key separatist leaders fearing their participation in demonstrations would intensify anti-India protests and mobilize people in large numbers.
Reports pouring in from other places said people offered prayers in the mosques and took out protest demonstrations at several places. The government forces fired warning shots, pellets and tear smoke shells to disperse angry crowds. Several people were injured in the clashes, local media reports said.
On Thursday, the authorities foiled separatist march to “martyrs graveyard” in Srinagar.
Earlier this week, the region’s Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti visited New Delhi and urged New Delhi to take some “bold and tangible initiatives” to end the ongoing unrest in the region. Mehbooba called for reviving the “confidence building and peace process” through a productive dialogue process with all shades of the political opinion and with Pakistan.
However, Modi is yet to take any such steps. He has recently announced that his government along with local government were finding solution to all problems through “development”.
Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party is in a coalition in Indian-controlled Kashmir with Mufti’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Protests in the region broke out on July 8 following the killing of a top militant commander of Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) Burhan Muzaffar Wani. The 22-year-old Wani was poster boy of HM, the region’s indigenous militant outfit.
Wani’s killing triggered violent protests and clashes which are going on since then. So far 58 people including two policemen were killed in the ongoing wave of unrest. Health officials put the number of civilians injured since the outbreak of protests to more than 3000. More than 100 people have also lost eyesight after being hit by pellets. Police officials said an equal number of government forces were injured due to stones hurled by protesters.
Anti-India sentiment runs deep in the psyche of majority of Kashmiris. Irate residents defying curfew and restrictions took to roads at several places and clashed with police. The youth throw stones and brickbats on contingents of police and paramilitary, who respond by firing tear smoke shells, pellets and bullets, which often proves fatal.
The shutdown and restrictions have affected normal life in the region, with people complaining dearth of essentials and eatables.
A separatist movement and guerrilla war challenging New Delhi’s rule is going on in Indian-controlled Kashmir since 1989.
The cellphone and internet services continue to remain suspended in the region since July 8 in a bid to prevent people from mobilizing .
Prior to this, in 2010, a similar wave of violence hit the region and claimed over 100 lives during clashes that continued for months together.
Kashmir, the Himalayan region divided between India and Pakistan, is claimed by both in full. Since their Independence from Britain, the two countries have fought three wars, two exclusively over Kashmir.
The weeks of turbulence in Indian-controlled Kashmir has added a new confrontation in the already strained relations between the two countries.