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India Marks 54 Years of Independence

India marked its 54th Independence Day with tight security and tough rhetoric against Pakistan. Authorities say separatist militants killed seven civilians in Jammu and Kashmir State, in one attack, and wounded 18 others in another incident. In his traditional Independence Day speech India's prime minister criticized Pakistan for what he calls its continued sponsorship of terrorism in the territory of Kashmir.

Traditional marching bands welcomed Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to the ramparts of the Red Fort in the heart of the capital's historic quarter. In a tough Independence Day speech dominated by the issue of violence in Jammu and Kashmir, Prime Minister Vajpayee continued his criticism of Pakistan's president, General Pervez Musharraf, saying at last month's summit meeting in Agra, General Musharraf was not interested in "friendship with India, but only in the territory of Kashmir." Mr. Vajpayee says India has watched as violence worsened in Kashmir, since the summit. He says Pakistan should stop believing it can get Kashmir through what the prime minister calls "terrorism."

Islamabad strongly denies the accusation, saying it only offers diplomatic support to Kashmir separatists.

Mr. Vajpayee says India will "stamp out the insurgency in Kashmir," saying there has been a dramatic upsurge in violence there since his meeting with General Musharraf.

Mr. Vajpayee spoke from behind a large, bulletproof screen. Independence Day observances were held under some of he tightest security measures seen in years, with nearly 100,000 security force personnel on duty in the capital and hundreds of thousands of others manning strategic positions elsewhere in the country.

There were scattered reports of violence in India's troubled northeast. Independence Day observances were held in a tightly guarded stadium in Srinagar, the winter capital of Jammu and Kashmir, but a general strike called by Kashmir separatists left roads and streets in the region deserted. Nearly everyone stayed indoors.