A delegation of Indian lawmakers seeking to defuse months of deadly civil unrest in Kashmir arrived in the Himalayan region yesterday, a day after four more anti-India protesters died after being hurt during increasingly violent demonstrations.
Lawmakers from all major Indian national parties were expected to meet Kashmiri leaders in Srinagar to find ways to address long-standing demands for self-rule or a merger with predominantly Muslim Pakistan. Srinagar is the largest city in the Indian portion of Kashmir.
It was unclear how useful the delegation’s mission would be after Kashmiri separatists said they would not meet the lawmakers, and dismissed the trip as a public relations stunt by the Indian government.
Kashmir has been rocked by widespread protests against Indian rule since June, with at least 106 people killed in clashes with security forces. Human rights group Amnesty International has urged Indian authorities to investigate the killings and order government forces to stop the use of lethal force against demonstrators.
Yesterday, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, a top separatist leader, described the Indian lawmakers’ visit as “a facade, a joke.”
“They have converted the entire Kashmir region into a prison and now a delegation has been sent to meet the besieged people,” Farooq said.
Thousands of armed troops patrolled the deserted streets of Srinagar and other major towns yesterday and enforced a curfew for an eighth day.
Three men hurt during street battles with government forces last week died in hospitals in Srinagar on Sunday, a police officer said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
Also on Sunday, a 22-year-old woman was killed by Indian security forces in the town of Sopore after a group of protesters attacked them with stones, the officer said.
However, Firdous Ahmed Wani, the victim’s brother, said his sister was fatally shot by government forces who forcibly entered their home.
Since 1989, a violent separatist insurgency and an ensuing crackdown by Indian forces have killed an estimated 68,000 people, mostly civilians, in Kashmir.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and is claimed by both.