* First contacts show two sides far apart
* New generation of Kashmiris use new technology to revolt
* PM Singh accused of slow, inadequate response to rising
(Recasts with lawmakers meeting separatists)
By Sheikh Mushtaq
SRINAGAR, India, Sept 20 Indian lawmakers met
detained Kashmiri separatists on Monday, despite a rebel boycott
of government-sponsored talks to end the biggest independence
uprising in Kashmir in over 20 years, but no breakthrough was
Among the separatists were Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who has
emerged as the leading face of the anti-India demonstrations and
who is seen as a hardliner by the government, and Mirwaiz Umar
Farooq, the head of All Parties Hurriyat (Freedom) Conference.
The politicians were sent to the region by Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh, who has been accused of not taking seriously
enough the protests that exploded in Kashmir this summer,
causing more than 100 deaths.
Nearly all the victims have been killed by police bullets,
heightening anger against New Delhi.
"We don't want to live in a constant state of fear and state
terrorism, Kashmir is an international dispute and it has to be
addressed according to the wishes of the people," Farooq told
the visitors, displaying photographs of young boys killed by
Geelani and Farooq, like other separatist leaders, had
refused to meet the delegation, prompting a few of the Indian
politicians to visit them at their homes. Both were placed under
house arrest this morning by the police.
There was no meeting of minds between the two sides.
Geelani spurned New Delhi's offers of economic assistance
for the state, saying "we want independence," while Indian
communist lawmaker Gurudas Dasgupta told Farooq: "We do not
agree with the Hurriyat demand for azadi (freedom). You must
help in restoring the peace."
Since the first death in June, Kashmir has been thrown out
of gear by strikes and curfews. Schools, colleges and businesses
remain shut. Food and medicine are scarce.
As New Delhi's representatives landed this morning in the
summer capital Srinagar, authorities enforced a strict curfew
across the region.
Heavily armed security forces patrolled deserted streets and
loudspeakers mounted on police vehicles asked residents to stay
indoors in a bid to head off more protests, witnesses said.
Seven people were injured when police fired at stone-pelting
protesters in north Kashmir, police said.
Pro-India politicians in the Muslim-majority region asked
the delegation for political concessions, including autonomy for
the region and for the repeal of a widely hated law that gives
security forces immunity in cases of civilian deaths.
The ruling National Conference and the opposition Peoples
Democratic Party accept Indian rule in Kashmir.
Prime Minister Singh has been accused of not taking the
protests seriously even as a new generation of Kashmiri youth
erupts in anger at living in one of the world's most militarised
Militant attacks, which first broke out in 1989, have
declined considerably, but street protests have grown.
While a previous generation of Kashmiris often embraced
militancy, a new generation has used street protests, Facebook
and mobile phones to spread revolt, mindful of how violence and
an army backlash led to more than 47,000 deaths after 1989.
"Boys pushed to the brink may pick up guns again. The
generation which grew up amidst a bloody conflict is capable of
prolonging the conflict for many more decades to come," Firdous
Syed wrote in his Greater Kashmir newspaper's online edition.
(Writing by C.J. Kuncheria, editing by Tim Pearce)