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Saturday, 17 August, 2002, 11:41 GMT 12:41 UK
Fresh talks with Kashmiri separatists
Prominent leaders of the Hurriyat Conference at a meeting
The committee is also holding talks with Hurriyat leaders
Talks have begun in Indian-administered Kashmir between separatist leaders and a non-governmental group to find a solution to the long-running Kashmir dispute.

The Kashmir Committee, led by India's former law minister, Ram Jethmalani, is meeting the leading separatist alliance - the Hurriyat Conference - in Srinagar.

On Friday, the committee held a dialogue with a prominent separatist leader and chief of the Jammu and Kashmir Democratic Freedom Party, Shabir Ahmad Shah.


The committee's role is to help create a situation in which the dialogue for finding a final solution to the Kashmir problem can go on uninterrupted

Ram Jethamalani, Head of the Kashmir committee

The move - seen as a fresh initiative to find a peaceful resolution to the dispute in Kashmir - comes ahead of state elections next month.

Mr Jethmalani told journalists in Srinagar that he delivered an invitation to Mr Shah from Indian Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani for talks at any time and on any issue relevant to the solution of the dispute.

The Chief Minister of Indian-administered Kashmir, Farooq Abdullah, has opposed any talks with separatist leaders.

Talks to continue

Mr Jethmalani held a three-hour long discussion with Shabir Shah.

He told journalists that the dialogue would continue until a solution to the Kashmir problem was found.


The Indian Government should... withdraw laws which gave extraordinary powers to the armed forces deployed in Indian administered Kashmir.

Shabir Shah, Separatist leader
Mr Jethmalani said, " the committee's role is to help create a situation in which the dialogue for finding a final solution to the Kashmir problem can go on uninterrupted to a fruitful and successful end".

He said the committee would talk to a cross-section of Kashmiri leaders over the next three days.

The committee will also hold meetings with some pro-India political leaders including India's former home minister - Mufti Mohammed Sayeed.

According to Mr Jethmalani during his talks with Mr Shah, both sides had agreed that the dialogue would be held in a peaceful atmosphere.

But while agreeing that issues could be resolved through talks and not through violence, Mr Shabir Shah termed the on-going armed campaign in Indian-administered Kashmir as a "freedom struggle".

Security check in Srinagar
Special measures are being taken in Kashmir

"Once the militants are convinced that there would be a breakthrough at the political level to resolve the dispute, they would definitely listen to us", he said.

Mr Shah demanded the Indian Government stop human rights violations, particularly deaths of suspects while in custody.

He also asked that the government to release political prisoners and withdraw laws which gave extraordinary powers to the armed forces.

Mr Shah, however, said he would not participate in the forthcoming elections.

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06 Aug 02 | South Asia
30 Jul 02 | South Asia
15 Aug 02 | South Asia
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