Kashmiri separatists meet after ceasefire is lifted

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The Independent Online

The troubled Indian state of Kashmir was in limbo yesterday after the cancellation of the ceasefire announced two weeks ago by the largest group of separatist militants, HizbulMujahideen.

The troubled Indian state of Kashmir was in limbo yesterday after the cancellation of the ceasefire announced two weeks ago by the largest group of separatist militants, HizbulMujahideen.

The guerrilla group cancelled the ceasefire on Tuesday evening after India refused to invite Pakistan to join the negotiations. The announcement by the group's leader, Syed Salahuddin, in the Pakistan capital, Islamabad, was followed two hours later by a grenade attack on Indian army headquarters in the Kashmiri town of Baramulla, which was thought to be the work of Hizbul Mujahideen. No one was injured in the attack.

Leaders of the umbrella separatists organisation, the All-Party Hurriyet Conference (APHC), met for four hours yesterday afternoon, but the group's chairman, Professor Abdul Gani Butt, refused to comment on their deliberations.

Kashmir barely had time to get used to the idea of a peace process before it fizzled out. Yet hope has not entirely vanished from the Valley. Most of the APHC leaders were detained in Indian jails but, reportedly under pressure from the United States, have recently been freed. The APHC condemned Hizbul Mujahideen's ceasefire as a "hasty move", and was in turn denounced by the Indian Home Minister, Lal Krishna Advani, for its "negative role" in the process, but few would be surprised to see the APHC and India entering negotiations soon.

In the same speech to parliament, Mr Advani blamed "Pakistan's political establishment" for the end of the cease-fire. "Pakistan has sabotaged the promise of peace in the state," he said. Pakistan, however, blamed Indian "rigidity" for torpedoing the talks.

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