Scotland's independence referendum stirs Kashmiri demands for vote on future

Srinagar: Kashmiri separatist leaders have seized on Scotland's referendum on independence to demand that India follow through on a promise to grant a similar vote in the disputed Himalayan region.

Scotland was voting on Thursday on whether to split away from the United Kingdom in a ballot moderate Kashmiri separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said was an example of how Kashmiris' demands for a say on their future could be solved peacefully.

 Scotlands independence referendum stirs Kashmiri demands for vote on future

A file photo of protests in Srinagar. AFP

"We hope India will also change its approach and realise the fact that people's rights can't be trampled upon," Farooq, the head Muslim priest on the Indian side of Kashmir, where a violent insurgency against New Delhi's rule raged through the 1990s and resentment still runs high, said on Wednesday. "It is encouraging that in a peaceful manner people will be deciding their future."

Kashmir has been a bone of contention between India and Pakistan ever since both nations became independent from British rule in 1947. Two of the three wars fought between the two nations have been over Kashmir.

Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj blurted out her horror at the thought of New Delhi's former colonial master splitting apart, when questioned at a news conference last week. "A break-up of the UK? God forbid," she said. "I don't think any such possibility exists at the moment."

After a senior civil servant whispered in her ear, Swaraj corrected herself, commenting: "It is up to the people of Scotland to decide."

Hardline Kashmiri separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani praised the United Kingdom for giving Scotland the vote, adding that London should now put pressure on India to grant Kashmiris a referendum. "India should learn lessons from the UK and honour its commitment of granting right to self-determination to people of Kashmir," Geelani said.

REUTERS

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Updated Date: Sep 18, 2014 17:40:48 IST