India to send Kashmir fact-finding team


India’s government said Wednesday it would send a cross-party delegation to Kashmir to gather information about the unrest there that has left 93 people dead in the last three months.

The decision was the main outcome from a crisis meeting of all political leaders in New Delhi chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

“The leaders agreed that the delegation should meet all sections of the people and gather all shades of opinion,” a statement from the government said.

No senior ministers have visited the Kashmir valley since the unrest began three months ago.

One measure discussed was the partial withdrawal of a tough military law in the region, which grants the armed forces immunity and is seen as fuelling a sense of injustice for Kashmiris.

The right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party and the armed forces have both argued forcefully against diluting the powers of security forces.

But some in the government are reportedly in favour of a partial withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, a move also favoured by the patriarch of Kashmir’s ruling National Conference party, Farooq Abdullah.

“The Armed Forces Special Powers Act is not necessary,” he told reporters after leaving the five-hour meeting at the prime minister’s residence.

“The places where it is necessary in the border areas, there it will continue, but the government of India will look into the ground reality and then make a decision,” he added.

Four more protesters were shot dead by police on Wednesday.

In the worst day of violence since protests began in June, 18 people died on Monday.

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