Hurriyat rejects Indian invitation for talks

An all-party group of Indian lawmakers visited occupied Kashmir on Monday but key local leaders refused to meet them and said New Delhi had no answers to the region’s crisis.

More than 100 civilians have been martyred in three months of clashes that have pitched stone-throwing protesters against the security forces, who have frequently opened fire with live ammunition.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held an emergency all-party meeting last week, which decided to send the 37-member delegation to IoK to talk to local politicians and business groups in an effort to ease tensions.

It is the first time that ministers or mainstream political leaders have visited the region since the demonstrations began in June.

But hopes that the visit could break the cycle of violence were undermined by the decision of Kashmiri pro-liberation leaders to reject the offer of face-to-face talks.

Syed Ali Geelani, rejected any meeting, saying nothing positive could emerge from it.

Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik also declined to meet with the all-party delegation, their supporters told reporters on Monday morning.

“It is a farce that they come here, saying they are assessing the situation, when everyone knows that innocents are being martyred and the curfews have turned much of IoK into a jail,” Farooq said.

“We can not support these half-hearted gestures that are just to make the government look as if they are serious.”

Mehbooba Mufti, leader of the state government opposition, said she would send party members to the talks at a conference centre in the region’s main town of Srinagar, but would not attend herself.

“They know my views, and we have not changed any policy,” she said, adding that a strict curfew across IoK should be lifted immediately.

The delegation from New Delhi, led by Home Minister P. Chidambaram, also planned to meet representatives of the struggling tourism industry and other businesses, according to officials.

“We have to talk to each other. And those who have grievances against the government have to talk to the administration,” Prime Minister Singh said last week.

Delegates did not speak to the media early Monday, but Pawan Kumar Bansal of the ruling Congress party said Sunday that they would be getting “direct feedback from the ground”.

“I will not raise the expectations. It is part of a long-drawn process which we have to carry out,” he said.