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Last Updated: Monday, 11 August, 2003, 17:26 GMT 18:26 UK
Kashmir Hindus urged to return

By Altaf Hussain
BBC, Srinagar

Syed Salahuddin
Salahuddin asked the Hindus to back the "ongoing freedom struggle"

A key militant group in Indian-administered Kashmir, Hizbul Mujahideen, has appealed to Kashmiri Hindus - who fled their homes in the valley after the start of an armed conflict 13 years ago - to return home.

Nearly 100,000 Hindus migrated from Srinagar and other parts of the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley in 1990 and have since been living in Jammu and in the Indian capital, Delhi.

In a statement faxed to the BBC office in Srinagar, the self-styled supreme commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen, Syed Salahuddin, has promised full protection to the Hindus who return to the valley.

He has asked them to support what he termed as the ongoing freedom struggle.

Syed Salahuddin alleged their exodus was engineered by the then-governor of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, Mr Jagmohan, as part of a conspiracy.

Indian authorities say the Hindus fled their homes after the militants targeted them.

Although the political leadership of the separatist movement has, on many occasions, desired a return of the Hindus to their homes, it is the first time that a militant group has promised to give them protection.

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