India's PM Modi comes under pressure over violence in Kashmir

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi came under pressure on Aug 22, 2016 over weeks of deadly violence in Kashmir.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi came under pressure on Aug 22, 2016 over weeks of deadly violence in Kashmir. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW DELHI (AFP) - India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi came under pressure on Monday (Aug 22) over weeks of deadly violence in Kashmir, with the region's opposition leaders calling on him to rein in troops and police.

Mr Modi stressed the need for dialogue to end the unrest in the disputed Himalayan region, after meeting the opposition leaders in New Delhi at their request.

"He (Modi) emphasised on the need for all political parties to work together to find a solution to the problems in the state of Jammu and Kashmir," his office said in a statement after talks with the delegation.

Much of Indian-administered Kashmir has been under curfew since protests broke out over the death on July 8 of a popular young rebel leader in a gunfight with security forces.

More than 60 civilians have been killed in clashes between protesters and police and troops and thousands more injured in the worst violence to hit the restive region since 2010.

Opposition delegates led by former Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah singled out security forces' firing of shotguns to disperse the protesters.

Hospitals have reported hundreds of young men and boys suffering serious eye and other injuries from the pellets.

"We also implore you to announce an immediate ban on pellet guns," said a memorandum handed to Mr Modi. Use of the guns, along with harassment, raids and arrest of residents, "has worsened an already volatile situation in the state".

The meeting comes a day after Mr Modi's Finance Minister Arun Jaitley warned that ongoing violence in the region would not be tolerated and described stone-throwers as among the aggressors.

Many of the young men who have come onto the streets since the rebel's death are throwing stones at security forces, an increasingly common form of protest in the area.

Mr Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party is part of an uneasy coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir, India's only Muslim-majority state.

The Kashmir region is divided between India and Pakistan but both claim the territory in full.

The Kashmir Valley, where the recent violence has occurred, is the epicentre of a separatist insurgency, with several rebel groups fighting Indian troops and police. They seek either independence or merger of the territory with Pakistan.