SRINAGAR, Sept 7: Kashmir’s top leader has warned that India’s heavy-handed crackdown on protests could trigger a renewed violent upsurge in the long-running freedom struggle.

Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said New Delhi needed to accept that the Kashmiris were as opposed as ever to Indian occupation and a referendum on self-determination was the only way out of the crisis.

“We will continue to fight peacefully and politically,” Farooq told AFP in an interview, which had to be conducted by telephone because he is under house arrest.

“(However) If India pushes us too hard to the wall, tomorrow you can’t really ignore the fact the youth might be angered and forced to resort again to arms,” Farooq said.

Farooq and two other top separatist leaders — Syed Ali Geelani and Yasin Malik — have been placed under house arrest as security forces struggle to contain public anger.

India should be told by the “world community not to use brute force and intimidate the people,” said Farooq.

“Unless and until the basic issue (of Kashmir’s future) is addressed, you cannot ever say that the Kashmir issue is dead or that people have forgotten what happened in the past,” he said.

Farooq had held several rounds of talks with New Delhi in the past to try to find a solution to the future of Kashmir, despite opposition from separatists and attacks on his residence by militants.

He now opposes bilateral parleys.

“The time has come to resolve the issue either through tripartite dialogue or an UN-supervised referendum giving people the choice of independence, staying with India or joining Pakistan.” “These are the only two mechanisms which we believe are workable in the present situation,” said Farooq.

Farooq echoed the same sentiments.

“It was brewing for a long time. People had placed hope in the dialogue process but everything has failed. Nothing had been delivered on the ground,” said Farooq.

“India has been talking about addressing the issue of Kashmir but they always try to evade the basic question of self-determination,” he said.

MILITANTS KILLED: Meanwhile, Indian troops shot dead six militants, including two senior members of Kashmiri groups, in separate gun battles, police said on Sunday.

After a fierce firefight, Indian soldiers shot dead two “divisional commanders” of Lashkar-i-Taiba and Jaish-i-Mohammad in the Sopore area of north Kashmir, a police spokesman said.

Another militant and one soldier were killed in a separate clash in a remote area, police said.

They said Indian soldiers also killed three suspected militants late on Saturday when they tried to sneak into occupied Kashmir from the Azad Kashmir.

Indian police clashed with stone-throwing Kashmiri protesters in Srinagar on Sunday, a day after a Kashmiri died in similar anti-India rallies.—Agencies

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