Separatist leader rejects India’s Kashmir plan

Hardline separatist leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, dismisses India's Kashmir plan to ease security measures as an effort 'to hoodwink the international community.'

Altaf Qadri/AP
Kashmiri separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani gestures as he speaks to media before his arrest in Srinagar, India, on Sept. 8. The separatist leader spoke out Sunday against India's plan to ease security in the Kashmir region.

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A hard-line separatist leader in Indian Kashmir on Sunday rejected an Indian government proposal aimed at ending the violent protests that have swept through the region since June.

More moderate Kashmiri leaders have not yet announced their stance on the Indian government’s proposal to release jailed protesters, offer financial compensation to the families of those killed in protests, and ease security measures across the region. But New Delhi’s delay in addressing the situation in Kashmir has empowered hard-line leaders, and their rejection of government overtures could mean the protests will continue.

Agence France-Presse reports that the leader who rejected the government’s offer, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, has organized many of the protests in Kashmir this summer.

"It is a time-gaining exercise and unrealistic. It is aimed to hoodwink the international community," Mr. Geelani said of the government’s offer, according to AFP. "If rulers in New Delhi believe that by releasing a few students and providing ex gratia relief to the families of martyrs they can reduce the alienation (of Kashmiris), they are wrongly mistaken."

Indian Express news service adds that Mr. Geelani said protests will continue unless the government addresses his five demands, which include acknowledging Kashmir as an international dispute and demilitarizing the region.

More than 100 killed since June

At least 107 people have been killed in the wave of pro-independence demonstrations since June. Many of those killed were youths, and most were shot by police during clashes with protesters. The Muslim-majority region is claimed by both India and Pakistan and has been in dispute for more than 60 years. Strict curfews have been in place for much of the past three months as the protests raged, but were lifted over much of the region on Sunday, the Hindustan Times reports.

After months of enduring criticism for its inaction, India’s central government Saturday announced a new plan for Kashmir, offering an eight-point proposal and appointing a group of “interlocutors” to begin dialogue in Kashmir, reports Indian daily The Hindu. The move came after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sent a fact-finding mission to Kashmir and was announced after a security cabinet meeting. The proposal includes releasing students who have been detained during protests and dropping charges against them, and a review of security forces deployments.

According to The Hindu, the prime minister said the cabinet did not discuss repealing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), a law that gives security forces wide powers in “disputed areas,” including Kashmir. Separatist leaders in Kashmir say the law has been abused, and its repeal has been a key demand.

The New York Times reports that many in Kashmir are skeptical of the central government, and will wait to see if it follows through with Saturday’s proposal. Some outright rejected the offer to pay 5 lakh, or about $11,000, to families of protest victims.

Abid Nabi, 21, whose 18-year-old brother was shot and killed by the police in Srinagar, was not impressed and cautioned that the broader package from New Delhi might not defuse the protests.
 “I cannot sell the death of my brother for five lakh,” he said in a telephone interview. “I do not think that anybody in Kashmir will accept this money. I lost my 18-year-old brother. Many families lost boys who were 7, 8, or 9. Even if leaders will ask to stop protests, youths will defy them.”

Resolving the stituation in Kashmir may depend on the government’s ability to reach out to youths like Mr. Nabi.

Young people in Kashmir mobilized over the summer as they witnessed heavy-handed police tactics and the deaths of young protesters, reported the Christian Science Monitor in August.

This summer, hundreds of "rock pelters" ages 6 to 30 have clashed with security forces across Indian-controlled Kashmir.
These young men are determined to be the generation that wins self-determination for Kashmiris.


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