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India's strategy of suppression in Kashmir could backfire

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“If the government is not letting the people pray then it’s mandatory for the people at a certain time to declare war against the state. And I think this is something the muftis and the religious scholars will have to think about,” he says.

What separatists want

New Delhi has called for meetings that would involve a wide range of voices, including separatists. But before any dialogue begins, separatists have demanded an easing of draconian security laws, release of prisoners, and pullbacks of street forces. The two sides appear at a standoff.

Observers say tensions run deep across the region, with the influx of Indian security now immobilizing life in much of the Kashmir Valley.

For weeks, dogs and body-armored men have largely had the streets to themselves in downtown Srinagar, the region’s largest city. Residents chalk slogans such as “India Go Back” and “Go India Go” over the roads, hinting at the pervasive frustration here.

The curfew and closure of retail shops has hurt residents, particularly day laborers, which adds pressure each passing day on separatist leaders to urge activists to stand down for now.

“The patience of the people is running out," says Taj Mohudin, minister for irrigation in the Jammu and Kashmir state government. He is among four ministers who form a core group tasked with handling the situation. He says leaders in Delhi from the ruling Congress Party, of which he is a member, “are satisfied with the actions being done.”

As an elder politician, Mr. Mohudin says he’s seen the full 60 years of the struggle in Kashmir for separation. “They talk of independence,” he says. “As a Kashmiri, I feel that first we should be an economically viable state.”

What rock pelting boys and young men say

Conversations with half a dozen rock-pelters, however, revealed only optimism about the economic prospects of an independent Kashmir. None of the youths were themselves unemployed and they denied that economics were key to their motivations.

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