21 Sep 2010

Delegation on visit to Kashmir

5:37 pm on 21 September 2010

An all-party delegation of Indian parliamentarians is on a fact-finding mission in Indian-administered Kashmir, where more than 100 people have been killed during street protests in the past three months.

Most of them were shot dead by police.

The delegation arrived in Srinagar under tight security.

The three main separatist leaders have met members of the delegation. They had earlier refused to do so.

The BBC reports moderate separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq was told there was no chance of Kashmiri secession from India. But he was told that all other issues could be discussed.

Different groups of MPs from the delegation met Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik at their residences.

Mr Farooq, who is under house arrest, told NDTV that a private call from the five MPs was not the same as talks with the government.

Before the meeting, he told the BBC the delegation's visit to Kashmir was of limited value.

"The Kashmir issue is not about sending delegations from Delhi with no mandate," he said. "It's very clear that they have come to Kashmir to assess the situation."

Another group of MPs from the Indian delegation earlier visited Syed Ali Shah Geelani at his residence, where he too is under house arrest.

Mr Geelani leads the hardline faction of the Hurriyat Conference and has been a strident critic of Delhi's policy in the region.

The government announced the all-party fact-finding mission last week after an emergency meeting in the capital, Delhi.

During their two-day visit, the delegation plans to consult members of the public and Kashmiri politicians in the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley.

The BBC reports anti-India sentiment is high in the region, which is still under a curfew imposed nine days ago.