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Militant call to join protest

Srinagar, Aug. 23: The United Jihad Council, an umbrella group of 13 militant outfits based in Muzaffarabad, has declared unilateral ceasefire in populated areas and asked its cadres to join the protest marches in Kashmir.

Local news agency KNS quoted council chief and Hizb-ul Mujhadeen leader Syed Salah-ud-din as saying: “We have asked our cadres in Kashmir not to carry out any attacks in the populated areas from where the protest marches pass. The militants would conduct their operations in the border areas which are not inhabited by the people.”

Salah-ud-din added: “Militants have been directed not to display their arms. They have been asked to join the protest rallies like any civilians. Display of arms will give an excuse to the Indian security forces to kill people.”

The UJC chief asked separatist leaders to pass a resolution making it clear that the struggle is for “azaadi”.

“The Centre is trying its best to defame the struggle by calling it a movement against economic blockade and for opening of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road. The political leadership should get the resolution passed from the people demanding right to self determination,” he said.

Security agencies did not comment on the new development, saying they needed to check the reports.

Amarnath talks

The body spearheading the Amarnath unrest and the panel set up by the governor today held out hopes of a breakthrough in the land standoff after several rounds of talks that ended late in the night.

After the first two rounds, both sides — the Shri Amarnath Sangharsh Samiti and the four-member committee formed by governor N.N. Vohra — said the meetings were “positive and productive”.

The two panels met for a third round of talks late tonight but that meeting was “inconclusive”.

“We have presented a final draft before the government committee and they have said that they will discuss it with the governor,” Brigadier (Retd) Suchet Singh, who headed the Samiti team, said.

The meetings came as normal life in Jammu and Kashmir remained crippled since the government scrapped a May 20 order allotting 39.88 hectares to the trust that runs the cave shrine.

After the first two rounds of talks, an official source said the government had, in principle, agreed to give the land to the Amarnath trust, but the board would not have any proprietary rights over it.

“The land will be given to the board during the three-month Amarnath yatra period so that it can raise temporary structures for pilgrims,” the source said.

It is not clear, however, how the new proposal differs from the May 20 order that diverted the land to the board for temporary use but was later revoked, triggering the current unrest.

The panel has sought three days’ time from the Samiti to respond to its proposals.

The government panel had invited the Samiti for talks on August 19 to find a way out of the impasse.

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