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Tuesday, 26 November, 2002, 17:56 GMT
Demand for change in Kashmir forces
Border security force in Kashmir
Security forces have been accused of abuses
A senior politician in Indian-administered Kashmir's new government, Mehbooba Mufti, has called for greater accountability for Indian security forces.

If we want the fruits of the election to reach the people...there has to be accountability among the security forces fighting militancy here

Mehbooba Mufti

In an interview with the BBC's HARDtalk programme, Mehbooba Mufti, herself the daughter of the province's new chief minister, also called on the Indian Government to hold talks with unelected separatist groups in the province.

She also criticised those in the Indian ruling party, the BJP, who have accused the new coalition government of being soft on terrorists.

The new People's Democratic Party (PDP)-Congress Party government has released a number of militants from jail and reversed a controversial anti-terrorism law introduced by the national government.

She said that such critics should not play politics with Kashmir in order to win votes in next month's elections in India's strife-ridden western state of Gujarat.

Her calls came as fresh violence has shaken a brief period of calm after October's elections.

Mehbooba Mufti, Vice President of the People's Democratic Party
Ms Mufti is a key figure in the new government

Healing touch

Mehbooba Mufti emphasised her government's "pro-people" policies and said that to fight the violence in Kashmir it was first necessary to tackle popular alienation.

"If we want the fruits of the election to reach the people, if they really want to get something out of this election, which could be a turning point, there has to be accountability among the security forces fighting militancy here," she said.

Indian security forces have been heavily criticised for their role in the region.

While the PDP, of which Ms Mufti is vice president, does not question Kashmir's position within India, the new administration has pursued an independent line.

She wants outside forces not to interfere in the state.

"Pakistan, the Indian Government in New Delhi, no doubt we do need their help - but we want to tell them, give Kashmiri people a chance to live with peace and dignity."

Inclusive approach

Ms Mufti said that the new administration could help facilitate dialogue between India, Pakistan and the Kashmiri people.

But she stressed: "If you really want to address the Kashmir problem, then the New Delhi government will have to talk to all shades of opinion that are there."

Woman near damaged building
The conflict has damaged Kashmir's economy
"They have to talk to everybody because talking to the elected representatives only is not going to resolve the problem," she said.

She said groups such as the main political separatist alliance in Kashmir, the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, and militant groups such as the Hizbul Mujahideen must be included in dialogue.

She also criticised those in the Indian Government "who are trying to make Kashmir a battlefield to win the Gujarat elections".

In elections held in Kashmir in October the long serving National Conference party was defeated in polls that were widely acclaimed as relatively 'free and fair'.

After a lengthy wrangle over the chief ministership, the PDP and Congress agreed to form a coalition and rotate the top job between the parties.

The elections took place against the backdrop of a summer of high tension between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, and the campaign period itself saw the deaths of over 700 people.

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25 Nov 02 | South Asia
21 Nov 02 | South Asia
28 Oct 02 | South Asia
17 Oct 02 | South Asia
29 Oct 02 | South Asia
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