Kashmir Separatists Enter Talks With Displaced Hindus
19 July 2005
Srinagar: Muslim separatists in Indian Kashmir held groundbreaking talks with displaced Hindus on Tuesday in a bid to persuade them to return to homes they fled at the start of an insurgency against Indian rule, a separatist leader said. 'We are locked in talks to explore ways for the return of our brothers to the Kashmir valley,' said Maulana Abbas Ansari, a leader of the moderate faction of the region's main separatist alliance, the All Parties Hurriyat Conference. More than two dozen Kashmiri Hindu leaders arrived at the Hurriyat headquarters in Srinagar on Tuesday at the invitation of the separatists. They were received by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, the head of the moderate Hurriyat faction, and other separatist leaders. 'The response has been good. It shows the urge of Kashmiri Hindus to return to the valley,' said Ansari. He said one of the aims of the conference, the first since Hindus started leaving some 16 years ago, was to reestablish communal harmony and restore the composite culture of the Kashmir valley. Nearly 200,000 Kashmiri Hindus, also known as Pandits, fled their homes in Kashmir after militants in 1989 launched an insurgency against Indian rule in which tens of thousands have died. Most are living in shanty tenements in the state's southern Hindu-dominated region of Jammu. Some fled Kashmir altogether for other parts of India. Hindus have been demanding a separate homeland be carved out for them in the Muslim-dominated Kashmir valley. The government and the separatists oppose the idea. Unidentified gunmen killed 24 Hindus in the southern village of Nadimarg in March 2003, setting back the government's efforts to resettle Hindus in Kashmir.