PRAGUE, May 1, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- More than 60,000 people have been killed in Kashmir since the start of the Islamic insurgency in 1989 but Monday's killings have shocked a region long inured to violence.
Rajendra Kumar Sharma, one of the survivors, says the killers descended on the remote Doda district in the early hours of the morning.
"[The militants] took us out of our homes," Sharma said. "They told us to gather in the village chief's house and then they went outside. We were about 20 to 22 men in the village chief's house. When [the militants] came [into the house] they opened fire indiscriminately."
Peace Talks Will Go On
The killings come just two days before talks in New Delhi between moderate Kashmiri separatist leaders and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
In New Delhi today, senior Interior Ministry official Sri Prakash Jaiswal said there were no words of condemnation strong enough to describe the attack but it would not halt peace efforts.
"I want to tell the people of Jammu and Kashmir not to worry, I want to tell the nation that do not be perturbed," he said. "Such incidents will not stop the country and especially Jammu and Kashmir from moving towards peace."
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack but survivors said the men appeared to be Muslim and Kashmiri.
Fought Over Since 1947
Indian intelligence services had been warning of an increase in attacks in the run-up to the talks, which also coincide with the onset of spring and the snowmelt, which usually witness an increase in militant activity.
On , police in Kashmir found the bodies of four Hindu cattle grazers who had been recently abducted. Five other people who were abducted at the same time are still missing.
The predominantly Muslim-populated territory of Kashmir has been a flashpoint between India and Pakistan ever since 1947, when it acceded to India in return for military aid and a promised referendum on its future status. Since then Kashmir has been fought over in three Indian-Pakistani wars and the region remains divided into Indian and Pakistani-administered sectors.
India accuses Pakistan of supporting the Islamic insurgency, which seeks to overthrow Indian rule.
But the recent thaw in relations between India and Pakistan has encouraged hopes that a solution may at last be in sight.
Nevertheless, India still accuses Pakistan of not doing enough to dismantle militant training camps in Kashmir, while Pakistan says India is dragging its feet on the future of Kaashmir.