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Head of India's Kashmir State Calls for End to Violence

The top elected official in Indian-controlled Kashmir is appealing for an end to the 'cycle of violence' that has gripped the region

The head of India's Kashmir state has appealed for an end to a cycle of violence that has gripped the region during the past month. As Anjana Pasricha reports from New Delhi more street protests continue, despite a curfew in the region.

The chief minister of India's Jammu and Kashmir state, Omar Abdullah, is calling for an end to violent street protests that have led to the deaths of at least 34 people in the past seven weeks.

Addressing a press conference in New Delhi, Abdullah appealed to people to "stop taking the law into their hands", and not to attack government property.

"Protests lead to deaths, leading to further protests, leading to further casualties. This cycle of violence must end," he said.

The death of a 17-year-old student by a tear gas shell fired by the police in June triggered the current wave of violence. Since then the Kashmir valley has witnessed periodic clashes between local residents and police and paramilitary forces. The protesters have attacked security camps and bunkers with rocks, and many have died in police firing.

The past four days were particularly deadly. At least 15 people have died since Friday. An indefinite curfew has been put in place following the unrest.

But hundreds of people defied the curfew in the towns of Budgam and Kakpora and held demonstrations chanting anti-India slogans. Dozens were injured.

The latest round of violence led to a crisis meeting in New Delhi between Chief Minister Abdullah, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other top officials.

The chief minister says he has asked the federal government for more paramilitary troops in the state, where there is already a heavy security presence.

Abdullah also said that political initiatives are necessary to tackle the root of the problem in the state, where he says there is a sense of alienation among some people. But he says normalcy has to be restored before any initiatives could go ahead.

"Jammu and Kashmir is a political issue and requires political handling. It will require a political package more than an economic package and this is something we need to work towards," he said.

The current round of violence has worried New Delhi. It follows a spell of relative calm that had raised hopes that a two-decade-long separatist insurgency in the region had waned.

But political analysts say the unrest demonstrates anti-India sentiment still runs deep in India's only Muslim-majority region. Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan.