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India's Prime Minister Appeals to Kashmiris to Shun Violence

  • Associated Press

Kashmiri Muslim protesters throw stones at Indian security personnel during a protest in Srinagar, Indian-controlled Kashmir, Aug. 9, 2016.

Kashmiri Muslim protesters throw stones at Indian security personnel during a protest in Srinagar, Indian-controlled Kashmir, Aug. 9, 2016.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday appealed to the people of Indian-controlled Kashmir to shun violence in his first public comments on the region's situation after a month marked by massive anti-India protests and deadly violence.

Tens of thousands of Kashmiris have defied a strict curfew and security crackdown to participate in street protests over the killing of a rebel commander on July 8 by government forces. Clashes between rock-throwing residents and government forces firing live ammunition, shotgun pellets and tear gas have caused the deaths of more than 55 civilians and two policemen, with thousands of people injured.

In Modi's speech in central India, he reached out to Kashmiris to maintain peace there but he did not invite separatist leaders for talks, as suggested by his party's ally, the People's Democratic Party, in the coalition that governs the Himalayan region.

"Some want destruction over development in Kashmir,'' Modi said.

But, he noted, the path of democracy and dialogue was there. "It was painful to see innocent youngsters, who should be holding laptops, books and cricket bats, have been given stones'' and appealed to them to maintain peace and harmony in the region.

Indian opposition leaders have criticized Modi for keeping quiet on the deteriorating situation in Kashmir. They urged Modi to hold a meeting in which leaders of all political parties could discuss and offer ways to reach out to the people of Kashmir. Parliament is scheduled to debate the issue on Wednesday.

Modi said Kashmiris enjoy the freedom felt by Indians everywhere and his government was working to solve their difficulties. "However, some people who are unable to digest it are clinging onto the path to destruction.''

India accuses Pakistan of fomenting trouble in its portion of Kashmir, which is divided between them and which they both claim entirely. Most residents of the Himalayan region want independence or a merger with Pakistan, and insurgents groups have been fighting with that aim since 1989. More than 68,000 people have been killed in the insurgency and the ensuing Indian crackdown.

Pakistan says it provides moral and political support to Kashmiris, but denies India's assertions of arming rebels.

India's Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar summoned Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit in New Delhi on Tuesday to protests that Pakistanis have been trained and instructed to carry out attacks in India and Kashmir.

"This is contrary to assurances given by the Pakistani leaders at the highest level,'' said a statement by India's External Affairs Ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup.

The statement said a Pakistani arrested in Kashmir last month confessed to being trained by the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba group in Pakistan before being sent to India to target security personnel and carry out other attacks.

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