Mehbooba rejects Manmohan's appeal; NC, Congress MLAs rally behind Omar

Kashmir made some progress towards peace on Sunday, with the authorities lifting curfew across the troubled region.

But progress towards securing a cross-party consensus on how to deal with clashes between police and protesters remained elusive.

The clashes have claimed more than 20 lives this year and the Army was called out to assist the civilian authority last week.

Mehbooba Mufti, who leads the opposition People's Democratic Party, rejected a call from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to participate in an all-party meeting called by the State government to discuss the clashes.

Talking to journalists in Srinagar, Ms. Mufti said that while she had great regard for the Prime Minister, the PDP could not attend the meeting as the State government was using the dialogue to hide its “utter failure.” She demanded lifting of “curbs” on the media, withdrawal of the Army and an end to the “crackdown.”

Only a dialogue initiated by the Prime Minister would be “taken seriously by the people,” she said. Both Dr. Singh and Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram spoke to Ms. Mufti on Saturday in an effort to secure the PDP's participation in the meeting, which is scheduled to be held on Monday.

In preparation for the meeting, legislators from the ruling National Conference-Congress alliance met to express their faith in Chief Minister Omar Abdullah's authority.

The meeting appeared intended to scotch speculation that elements in the coalition were seeking to have Mr. Abdullah replaced by his father, the former Chief Minister, Farooq Abdullah.

The Jammu and Kashmir Police said no incidents were reported across the Kashmir Valley, barring small-scale protests in some Srinagar neighbourhoods.

Inspector-General of Police Farooq Ahmad said orders prohibiting four or more people from gathering in public remained in force in some areas, notably the towns of Pulwama, Anantnag and Baramulla. Similar restrictions were placed on some neighbourhoods in Srinagar, including Maisuma, Batamaloo and Nowhatta — regions which have borne the brunt of the recent clashes. In Sopore, curfew was relaxed from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. and was later indefinitely extended. Shops opened despite a strike called by Syed Ali Shah Geelani's hardline Tehreek-i-Hurriyat.