Women listen to the speech of Syed Ali Shah Geelani, chairman of the hardliner faction of Kashmir's Hurriyat conference, during an anti-India protest in Srinagar on 26 August, 2010.Reuters file

Tributes were paid by separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani to the two Hizbul Mujahideen militants who killed Indian Army officer Colonel MN Rai and head constable Sanjeev Kumar Singh. Col Rai and Singh died during an encounter in south Kashmir's Tral area earlier this week.

Their "sacred blood" would not go in vain and India must accept the ground realities, said Geelani, chairman of the hardliner Hurriyat group, who sent a high-level party delegation to meet the relatives of the two Kashmiri youths on Wednesday, reports Hindustan Times.

The 84-year-old, who is receiving medical care in Delhi, in an e-mailed statement said, "Due to the rigid and stubborn approach of the Indian government, the youth are opting for gun instead of pen and this policy is costing precious human lives in the region."

One of the two militants killed in the encounter was the son of a head constable with J&K Police. According to sources, his maternal uncle was also a militant while his cousin was arrested last year for stabbing a policeman.

"The violent path adopted by Kashmiri youth is not any act of hobby nor is it the result of unemployment. They are the students of different colleges and universities who are fully aware about the historical perspective and the tragedy of Kashmir," Geelani said.

Chairman of the PoK-based United Jihad Council Syed Salahuddin also joined Valley separatists in paying tributes to the two militants.

"The two fighters fought bravely and demonstrate the fact that every Mujahid (warrior) of Hizb is committed to Kashmir cause and is ready to sacrifice his precious life," Salahuddin said.

While the state BJP unit demanded Geelani be deported to Pakistan, voices from Jammu said the separatists were unnerved by their weakening support base.

Ajay Chrungoo, chairman of Panun Kashmir, said, "These are desperate calls from separatists as well as mainstream politicians in the Valley. Whenever they start finding their bearings weakening, they opt for such proclamations that carry no weight." Panun Kashmir is a movement to rehabilitate Kashmiri Pandits in exile.

BJP spokesman Hari Om reacting to the recent turn of events said, "Geelani should to be deported to Pakistan or booked under the charge of sedition."

"Enough is enough," he said.