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Protests Flare In Kashmir As India Attempts Talks

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Protests Flare In Kashmir As India Attempts Talks

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Protests Flare In Kashmir As India Attempts Talks

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RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

NPR's Corey Flintoff reports.

COREY FLINTOFF: This is Bandi Pora, a farming town in the Kashmir Valley. It's a pretty place, surrounded by fruit orchards, and there's a chill of fall weather. There's also the acrid smell of tear gas hanging in the air from a day of sporadic protests by small crowds of young men and boys.

(SOUNDBITE OF MEN CHANTING)

FLINTOFF: Armed Indian security men block one end of the street. A rock hits a wall.

(SOUNDBITE OF SHOUTING)

FLINTOFF: Police fire another tear gas canister.

(SOUNDBITE OF SHOUTING)

FLINTOFF: Separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani says the violence all originates on the Indian side. He says no police officer has been killed by stone-pelters.

MONTAGNE: But 111 people have been killed by their guns, and by their tear-gas shelling and bullets.

FLINTOFF: The team, called Interlocutors, is led by Dilip Padgaonkar, a retired journalist who covered the Kashmir conflict for years before he rose to be the editor of the prestigious Times of India. He says he wants the conflicting sides to focus on two things.

MONTAGNE: One is, you must spell out what you want - in absolutely clear, precise, concrete terms. We cannot proceed on the basis of sloganeering. Secondly, I've been saying, every proposal you make must take into account the big picture.

FLINTOFF: And that, says Padgaonkar, includes how the proposal will be received in India and Pakistan as well as the various regions of Kashmir, including Jammu, a predominately Hindu city south of Srinagar. The atmosphere there is far different.

MONTAGNE: We're Indians. And Kashmir is a part of India. And it's a great thing.

FLINTOFF: He also wants investigations and trials for the soldiers responsible for the shootings of protesters.

(SOUNDBITE OF WOMAN CRYING)

FLINTOFF: The pain of the shootings is fresh here in the town of Sopore, about an hour's drive from Srinagar. This family is marking the 40th day after the death of their 20-year-old son, Mudasir Ahmed Kachroo.

(SOUNDBITE OF PEOPLE CRYING)

MONTAGNE: He was 20 years old. He was software designer.

FLINTOFF: Syed Geelani says the Kashmir conflict ought to be on President Obama's agenda during his visit to India that begins on Saturday. He says it's a moral responsibility for the United States, with all the influence it wields.

MONTAGNE: (Unintelligible) tell him that we are a superpower, and we are for justice. We are for democracy, and we are in favor of suppressive(ph) nations.

FLINTOFF: Corey Flintoff, NPR News.

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