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Pro-India parties praise Kashmir plan; critics pan it

By Mukhtar Ahmad, CNN
Kashmiri people walk past an Indian paramilitary trooper on patrol during a curfew Friday in Srinagar, India.
Kashmiri people walk past an Indian paramilitary trooper on patrol during a curfew Friday in Srinagar, India.
  • Pro-India parties welcome the 8-point plan to defuse tensions in Kashmir
  • Hard-line separatist leader Geelani dismisses the proposal as "an eyewash"
  • The plan proposes scaling down the number of security forces, compensating victims' families
  • India
  • Jammu and Kashmir
  • Pakistan

Srinagar, India (CNN) -- Pro-India groups Sunday welcomed the latest initiative from New Delhi to defuse the crisis in Indian-administered Kashmir, but a hard-line separatist leader spearheading the unrelenting pro-independence unrest dismissed the plan as "an eyewash."

Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Omar Abdullah was one of the first to hail the eight-point proposal, describing it as "a positive development which should lead to resolving the political issues of the state."

Omar said students who had been detained for throwing stones during the violent demonstrations that have so far claimed 106 lives would be released soon, and schools and colleges should reopen Monday so that students will be prepared for annual state board exams.

However, he said, one of the main points of the proposal -- to scale down the number of security forces in the area and to withdraw the Disturbed Areas Act in some places -- would be reviewed this week at the unified headquarters meeting.

The Indian government had imposed a strict round-the-clock curfew in the summer capital of Srinagar and in several other areas in an attempt to prevent angry mobs from taking to the street.

Still, residents -- many of whom favor an independent Kashmiri nation in the Muslim majority Kashmir Valley, part of India's northern Jammu and Kashmir state -- came out hurling stones at police and paramilitary troopers who have in turn, opened fire and used tear gas.

State Congress party chief Saif-ud-Din Soz described the eight-point initiative, which was introduced Saturday by Home Minister P. Chidambaram, as "a good beginning."

The moderate All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) chairman, Mirwaiz Moulvi Umar Farooq, expressed "disappointment" with the proposal. He said his group would issue its formal reaction Monday after a meeting of its executive committee.

The hard-line separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani dismissed the initiative as "an eyewash, as it doesn't address the fundamental issue of accepting Kashmir as an international dispute by New Delhi."

It also does not take into account other demands of demilitarization under the auspices of a credible international agency and withdrawal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), he said.

Referring to the Indian home minister's announcement regarding a plan for dialogue with all sectors of society, Geelani said that by his count, more than "150 rounds of talks have been held since 1947 between Kashmiris and New Delhi which have, however, yielded nothing."

Kashmir analyst Abdul Quyoom noted that the proposal "has failed to enthuse the separatist leaders, who have been upping the ante for Kashmir's secession from India."

Also included in the plan is proposed compensation for the families of protest victims of the equivalent of about $11,000 each. Since the latest wave of unrest began in June, 106 people have died. The Indian government says another 245 people were detained.

Earlier in the week, Chidambaram, the home minister, led an all-party delegation of Indian parliamentarians to Srinagar to assess the situation firsthand.

Delegation members drove through the curfew-bound streets to an international conference center on the banks of Dal Lake, once one of India's most popular tourist destinations.

The delegation met with leaders of various pro-India parties. Kashmiri separatist leaders had turned down invitations for talks.

Moderate leaders Mirwaiz Moulvi Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik also turned down invitations to join the discussions, but sent a joint memorandum to the delegation reiterating their demands for restoration of normalcy and the initiation of dialogue.

Among those demands were demilitarization, the release of detainees and the withdrawal of what they called draconian laws.

Claims on the mostly Muslim Kashmir Valley has been a matter of dispute since the independence of India and Pakistan in 1947.

India deployed thousands of troops in Kashmir to guard against what Indian leaders believe was a Pakistan-backed insurgency that began in late 1980s. That insurgency, which claimed tens of thousands of lives, has waned but the troops have remained, fueling new waves of separatist unrest.