NEW DELHI, MAY 31 -- Hooded separatist guerrillas delivered speeches and fired shots over the graves of slain Moslem demonstrators in Kashmir's summer capital of Srinagar today as more than 100,000 people gathered to mourn an assassinated religious leader.
The observances quickly turned into open protests against Indian rule in the region, but the day passed peacefully as the newly appointed governor of India's troubled northern state of Jammu and Kashmir lifted the curfew in some areas and withdrew security forces from the site of the funeral services.
Here in New Delhi, a visiting congressman with oversight responsibility for U.S. policy in South Asia, Rep. Stephen Solarz (D-N.Y.), said he believed the chances are about 50-50 that the separatist uprising in Kashmir will lead India and Pakistan into war within six months.
Solarz met with Prime Minister Vishwanath Pratap Singh on Wednesday after having discussed the Kashmir issue with Pakistani officials in Islamabad. He said that while the leaders of the two countries wished to avoid military conflict, it could escalate quickly because of high tension along the border.
India and Pakistan have fought three wars along Kashmir's border, the last in 1971. India claims sovereignty over the region while Islamic Pakistan contends that Kashmiris, most of whom are Moslems, should be allowed to decide their sovereignty in a plebiscite.
Threats of war by the two countries in recent months have raised particular alarm in the West because both countries are thought capable of deploying nuclear weapons.
The United States and the Soviets have been unable to agree on a joint approach for defusing the crisis -- mainly because India, a longtime Soviet ally, objects to any third-party mediation as an infringement on its sovereignty.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of mourners in Srinagar massed early today at the grave of Maulvi Mohammed Farooq, Kashmir's hereditary Moslem religious leader, who was assassinated by unidentified gunmen at his home in Kashmir 10 days ago.
Demonstrators waved the banned flags of Kashmir's two largest armed separatist groups, the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front and the Hizbul Mujaheddin, according to witnesses.
Gun-toting militants delivered anti-Indian speeches and led chants for independence at the grave sites of Farooq and some of the 47 Kashmiris who were killed by Indian security forces on May 21. That day, soldiers opened fire on thousands of mourners who were marching with Farooq's body toward the cemetery.
The shootings, in which hundreds of people were injured, led to an outcry in India and abroad over the five-month campaign by the state's previous governor, Jagmohan, to quell the popular uprising.
Jagmohan resigned under pressure four days later and was replaced by Girish Saxena, a former chief of India's main intelligence agency. Saxena has vowed to continue India's crackdown on the armed Kashmiri militants, but both the new governor and his superiors in Singh's New Delhi administration are anxious to avoid any repetition of the May 21 shootings.