India names mediators to hold Kashmir dialogue

Image caption,
Recent protests are the biggest security challenge to Indian rule in many years

The Indian government has named three mediators to begin a dialogue with people in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Journalist Dilip Padgaonkar, bureaucrat MM Ansari and academician Radha Kumar will begin work soon.

The appointments are part of measures aimed at defusing tension. More than 100 Kashmiris have been killed since June in protests against Indian rule.

Separatist groups called the mediating team "a joke" rather than a serious attempt to resolve Kashmir's problems.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed in Kashmir since an armed revolt erupted in 1989.


Last month, Indian Home Minister P Chidambaram said the federal government would appoint a group to begin what he described as a sustained dialogue with Kashmiris, including political parties.

He said the three mediators were "very credible people", and that the government might add another mediator to the group later.

Mr Padgaonkar has been part of a committee on Kashmir in the past, while Mr Ansari is India's information commissioner. Ms Kumar heads an academic institute in Delhi and has been engaged in discussions with Kashmir separatist leaders in the past.

The government has also re-opened all schools and universities which were closed during recent unrest and pulled down some security bunkers as part of a range of measures designed to bring normalcy to the valley.

A prominent separatist leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, dismissed the announcements as "meaningless".

Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who heads the moderate faction of the All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC), was also dismissive.

"We expected a political committee comprising members of the opposition as well as the governing parties. Such a committee would talk with Pakistan as well as with Kashmiri leaders," he said.

"By appointing academicians and journalists to the committee, the Indian government has sought to make light of the Kashmir problem. It is yet another joke played with the people of Kashmir."

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