Indian PM vows to fight terrorism as 15 die in blast

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The Independent Online

India's Independence Day celebrations were marred by violence that claimed the lives of 15 people. The attacks came on a day when the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, addressed the nation and pledged to fight terrorism.

India's Independence Day celebrations were marred by violence that claimed the lives of 15 people. The attacks came on a day when the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, addressed the nation and pledged to fight terrorism.

In north-eastern Assam state, 15 people were killed in an explosion at the local college grounds in Dhemaji, where they had gathered to watch a parade. A rocket attack during school festivities in the disputed Jammu-Kashmir region wounded 17.

Speaking from the Red Fort, in New Delhi, a tradition followed by each prime minister since India gained independence on 15 August 1947, Mr Singh said his government would take a tough stand on terrorism. He said cross-border terrorism was hindering the India-Pakistan peace process, but promised to continue efforts to end five decades of hostility between the South Asian nuclear-armed neighbours.

"It is our intention to carry forward with firm resolve and sincerity the composite dialogue process with Pakistan," Mr Singh said in his speech.

Separatists have been fighting in Jammu-Kashmir state to break away from Hindu-majority India and join the Islamic nation of Pakistan. More than 65,000 people have been killed in the conflict since 1989.

Khagen Sharma, the inspector general of police in Assam, blamed the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom for the attack in Dhemaji, about 1,015 miles north-east of New Delhi.

It was unclear who was responsible for the rocket attack in Jammu-Kashmir, where children had gathered to watch an Independence Day ceremony organised by the Indian army at a school in Dangiwachi village, about 45 miles north of Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu-Kashmir state. The 17 people wounded included two soldiers.

In his speech, Mr Singh also sought higher moral standards among the country's politicians, vowed to fight poverty and government sloth and widen economic liberalisation in a way that could also help the millions of poor across India's villages.

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