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Dalai Lama visits Kashmir, a disputed land like Tibet

The Tibetan spiritual leader urged Kashmiris to follow the path of nonviolence only. Some Kashmiris questioned if it was the government that needed the message.

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A 'one-sided' plea

Kashmiri separatist leaders also took strong exception to the Dalai Lama’s "one-sided plea for nonviolence" and issued statements denouncing the idea of "peace without justice."

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“We respect Dalai Lama and recognize his genuine cause, but peace is only possible with justice. Until justice is done, there cannot be peace,” said Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, one of the main separatist leaders. Senior separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani called the statement, “sympathizing with oppressors instead of the oppressed.”  

The six day private visit is the Dalai Lama’s third visit to Kashmir. He sites turmoil in the region as the reason for not visiting in the past 24 years. He is the top guest of the state government, which is aligned with New Delhi, and has been put up at a posh residence surrounded by heavy security.

Jammu and Kashmir's Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has been accompanying the Dalai Lama on many of his visits across Srinagar and other places. 

"When I visited [Kashmir] the first time, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah was [governing] here; second time Farooq Abdullah [his son governed] here; and now Omar Abdullah [his grandson is governing]," the Dalai Lama said. 

Omar Abdullah recalled meeting the Dalai Lama on his last visit. "Much time has since passed. Our state has been through an extremely dark spell of violence," he said. "Things are now gradually improving and I request His Holiness to pray for permanent peace in the state."

Kashmir's Buddhist roots

The Dalai Lama went to the Tibetan colony in Srinagar and paid visits to places of Buddhist importance and other religious places in the valley. Apart from that, his visit to the valley is restricted to meetings with high ranking Indian officials, senior state ministers, bureaucrats, and does not include any meetings with local people, civil society organizations, or the separatist leadership.  

Kashmir has a significant Buddhist past. Buddhism was the major religion here for a time; the city of Srinagar was founded by the Buddhist ruler Ashoka around 250 BC. It is widely believed that on a hill of ancient ruins almost five miles from Srinagar, the Fourth International Buddhist conference was held in the second century BC. 

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