SRINAGAR, INDIA, MAY 26 -- The newly appointed governor of India's Jammu and Kashmir state said tonight that he has no plans to ease India's crackdown on Kashmiri separatists here who have mounted a popular uprising against Indian rule.
"There is no change in policy," said Girish Saxena, now the senior Indian official in troubled Kashmir, following his swearing-in at a sunset ceremony above picturesque Dal Lake. Saxena said he does not plan to relax the curfews that have paralyzed life in Kashmir in recent months and he promised "to be very firm" with the Moslem separatist militants.
Saxena, former chief of India's main intelligence agency, added that he hopes to spare innocent civilians from unnecessary suffering. "It is possible that innocent people may be hurt," he said. "Our intention is that no innocent people should be hurt or harassed."
The new governor declined to comment on the controversial policies of his predecessor, Jagmohan, who until his resignation under pressure on Friday presided over a brutal crackdown in the Kashmir valley, including prolonged curfews, house-to-house searches and beatings by security forces.
Speaking about his plans and priorities, however, Saxena offered no indication that he would pursue a different approach from Jagmohan. The government of Indian Prime Minister V.P. Singh has been under pressure from Hindu conservatives, who form part of its political base, to take a tough line with Kashmir's Moslem separatists.
More than 350 civilians have been killed in Kashmir this year and thousands have been detained and arrested. The crackdown by Indian security forces appears to have polarized the valley's civilian population and increased support for radical separatists.
The separatist uprising here also has escalated tensions between India and Pakistan and has provoked threats of a fourth war between the two countries. India claims sovereignty over Kashmir, while Pakistan urges that Kashmiris be allowed to decide their future in a plebiscite.
Kashmiri Moslems interviewed today, including a spokesman for the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, one of the largest armed militant groups in the valley, said Saxena's appointment would not lead to peace unless India was willing to consider talks that included the possibility of independence for Kashmir.
Saxena rejected such talks tonight, saying that a dialogue with the separatists could begin only once "a proper environment is created" and militants agree to accept the primacy of the Indian constitution.
"The situation has its difficulties" Saxena said. "We have no illusions about it. What needs to be done will be done."