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India set to free Kashmir detainees

The Indian government says it will ask authorities to release hundreds of students and youths detained during months of civil unrest in Kashmir that has left at least 107 people dead and review the massive deployment of security forces there.

The government also offered a dialogue, saying it would appoint people to talk to all stakeholders in the Indian-controlled portion of the divided Himalayan region, where many oppose Indian rule but it stopped short of offering direct talks with separatist leaders.

These "steps should address the concerns of different sections of people, including protesters", home minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said.

At least 107 people, mostly teenage boys and young men in their 20s, have died in the crackdown by security forces on often-violent demonstrations since June, with every death stoking public anger and more protests.

The government's proposals follow a visit by nearly 40 lawmakers from major Indian national parties to seek ways to end the unrest.

Mr Chidambaram said New Delhi would advise the state government to "immediately release all students and youths detained or arrested for pelting stones and withdraw charges against them". There are believed to be hundreds of such detainees.

He also advised the state government to review the cases of all those detained under the Public Security Act, which empowers authorities to detain people for two years without trial. Hundreds more people are believed held under this law.

He also announced a compensation of 500,000 rupees ($10,800) each to the families of those killed since June.

On the presence of troops, Mr Chidambaram said New Delhi would also ask the state government to convene a meeting of the army and security forces unified command "to review deployment of security forces in the Kashmir Valley".

He said particular attention would be paid to reducing the number of bunkers and checkpoints in the main city of Srinagar and other towns.

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