South Asia

Indian MPs jeered on visit to violence-hit Kashmir town

Protesters in Indian-administered Kashmir
Image caption Protesters were out on the streets again on Tuesday

A delegation led by the Indian home minister has visited a town at the centre of recent violence in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Some members were heckled by protesters as they visited a hospital in Srinagar, prompting police to move in to clear the area.

The delegation faced hostile questions from people in the town of Tangmarg.

The home minister is leading the all-party delegation to assess the causes of recent violence in Kashmir.

Six people were killed in the town last week in violence triggered by reports that the Koran had been desecrated in the US and by anti-India resentment.

Live ammunition

More than 100 people have been killed since June - mostly in protests over Delhi's rule over the territory.

In last week's violence in Tangmarg, mobs set fire to a Christian missionary school, the office of the social welfare department and a police vehicle.

Home Minister P Chidambaram's delegation addressed a meeting organised by local officials and then held an impromptu question and answer session with local people.

The BBC's Altaf Hussain - who is travelling with Mr Chidambaram - said that he and other members of the Indian delegation faced tough questions as to why the Indian security forces used live ammunition to quell recent protests.

Our correspondent says that one questioner asked how India could insist that Jammu and Kashmir was an integral part of India on the one hand and use such "brutal tactics" not used anywhere else in the country on the other.

In Srinagar, members of the delegation who visited a hospital were met by crowds chanting "Go India, go back" and "We want freedom" before police used batons to clear the area.

On Monday one of the main separatist leaders in Indian-administered Kashmir, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, said that protests against Indian rule would carry on unless his main demands were met.

Mr Geelani told the BBC that he wanted the withdrawal of Indian security forces from the region and the repeal of emergency laws.

He is one of three influential separatists who met members of the all-party delegation on Monday.

Security forces have frequently opened fire with live ammunition to disperse groups of stone-throwing protesters angry at India's rule over the disputed region. A curfew in the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley is now in its ninth day.

Speaking after the meeting with the MPs, Mr Geelani told the BBC the protests were peaceful and would continue unless his group's demands were met.

He said he wanted the Indian government to declare Kashmir an international dispute, withdraw troops from the region, revoke the emergency powers given to the security forces and release political prisoners.

Two other separatist leaders - Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik - were also visited by MPs from the delegation.

All three men had earlier refused to meet the visiting delegation.

They were told by the MPs that Kashmir was an integral part of India and there was no question of its secession.

The government announced the all-party fact-finding mission last week after an emergency meeting in the capital, Delhi.

It says says that it is trying to build a consensus among the country's major parties on how to deal with the situation.

During their two-day visit, the delegation is consulting members of the public and Kashmiri politicians and business leaders in the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley.

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