Top Kashmir separatist leaders under house arrest

Hidustan Times, Sep 5, 2008

Agence France-Presse

Srinagar, September 05, 2008

The three top separatist leaders in Kashmir were put under house arrest on Friday ahead of planned protests against Indian-rule during weekly prayers, police said.

Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Syed Ali Geelani and Yasin Malik were locked in their homes with “strict instructions by police not to try to move out,” a police official told AFP on condition he not be named.

Police and federal paramilitaries were also deployed in thousands in Kashmir’s summer capital Srinagar ahead of the first Friday prayers of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Separatists had told residents of Srinagar and the surrounding Kashmir valley, which have witnessed an upsurge in anti-India protests in recent months, to stage fresh demonstrations on Friday.

“We call upon the people of Kashmir valley to hold peaceful sit-in protests outside the mosques after Friday congregational prayers,” said a statement by a separatist committee.

“The protests should remain peaceful. People have been asked to raise slogans seeking freedom and the right to self-determination,” it said.

Indian Kashmir has been wracked by a Muslim insurgency since 1989.

The recent wave of protests was triggered by a state government plan made public in June to donate land to a Hindu shrine trust in the valley. The decision was later reversed after massive Muslim protests, angering Hindus.

On Sunday, the government agreed to temporarily provide land to the trust during the period of pilgrimage, a move rejected by separatists.

Since June, at least 39 Muslims and three Hindus have died in police shootings in the Kashmir valley and the mainly Hindu area of Jammu, further to the south.

India has detained protest leaders under tough laws and also held scores of separatist activists.

On Thursday, Geelani threatened to launch a “major agitation” against the government if the separatists were not released by the end of Ramadan.

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