India seeks sustained dialogue with Kashmiris

India offered Saturday to hold a ‘sustained dialogue’ with Kashmiris and look at scaling back security forces in the occupied Kashmir to quell a deadly wave of anti-India unrest.

The offer was part of an eight-point formula proposed by Home Minister P. Chidamabaram after he led an all-party mission to occupied Kashmir, shaken by protests almost daily since June.

“The government of India will appoint a group of interlocutors under an eminent person to begin the process of a sustained dialogue including political groups, (and) youth bodies,” Chidambaram told reporters in New Delhi.

He did not disclose the make-up of the dialogue group.

The announcement marked the first major initiative by the Congress-led government to defuse tensions in IoK where 107 civilians have died in clashes between stone-pelting demonstrators and security forces since June.

Most of the civilians, many of them teenagers, have died in live fire from police and paramilitary troops, while others have been hit by tear-gas shells or rubber bullets.

Chidambaram said the state government would be told to immediately free all students and youths arrested for pelting stones at security forces.

He said authorities will also look at reducing the deployment of security forces in the heavily militarised Kashmir valley, especially in occupied Srinagar.

In particular, Chidambaram said, officials will review the large number of security checkpoints in Kashmir that are deeply resented by the local population.

“We think these steps should address the concerns of different sections of Jammu and Kashmir, including (those of) the protesters,” said Chidambaram.