Posts Tagged ‘Jammu’

Kashmir Countdown

September 21, 2008

Source:  Kashmir Watch

Anil Raina chronicles the recurrence of Kashmir’s freedom cries from generation next

Protestors pelting stones at policemen in down town Srinagar


Till last summer, Kashmir had managed to reclaim its status of a tourist’s hub. Hotels were booked till year end, business was picking up after years of turmoil and it seemed that good times were returning to the Valley.

People were coming to terms with the pain of loss and getting over the fatigue of being hapless victims of 19 years of strife. At the time, no one knew that the situation would change so dramatically and so soon. Today, the state resembles the days of early militancy. The air is once again rent with calls for Azadi and the baton of freedom struggle has once again been passed from one generation to the other, with even children participating in the movement.

AN AUGUST MARCH

The march in Srinagar’s Muzaffarbad Road on August 22 looked like an ocean of people covering the highway from Pattan to Sheeri: a generation of young men, who were toddlers in 1990 when Kashmir exploded with massive public demonstration, was leading the procession. The security forces had withdrawn after failing to halt this march at 10 different places. Hurriyat leader Sheikh Aziz was killed on August 11, which lent fuel to the movement. Aziz’s killing during the Muzaffarbad Chalo march organized by the Kashmir based separatist groups and supported by People Democratic Party (PDP) made the situation volatile. People in the valley came out on the streets and started demanding instant Azadi (freedom) angered by what they called a cold-blooded murder by the security forces.

Burned CRPF bunker in Srinagar


Following this, all of Kashmir had erupted; dozens of people were killed in police firing and soon the Valley took on a different hue from what it was two months ago when the only buzz in the air was of election rallies, a pleasant spring and thousands of tourists. The People’s March at Srinagar’s Muzaffarbad Road changed all that. “We will not stop. We have to cross the LoC. We have to re-unite Kashmir,” said Abdul Rasheed Dar, a peace-loving businessman until now. “Kashmir has woken up. The movement is alive again.”

UNITED THEY STAND

For the first time, a million Kashmiris assembled in Eidghah last month at the call of the Hurriyat to conduct a rally to voice their demand for a free Kashmir. The rally lasted for 12 hours. Earlier it was a fight for leadership and ideology between the several extremist groups such as JKLF, People League, Dukhtaran-e-Millat and others, but following the Amarnath land row, they have melted their differences and become united with a single point agenda of making Kashmir an independent country. The stage was shared by hardliners such as Syed Ali Shah Geelani, and the merger was named the Co-ordination Committee. Hurriyat Chirman Syed Ali Shah Geelani wanted an end to the dialogue with the Centre, demanding trilateral talks involving Pakistan. The hardliner wanted the moderate faction to launch an active boycott campaign in the forthcoming assembly elections and stop offering a resolution proposal on Kashmir to the Centre. “We cannot let go of the opportunity. If we fail to rise up to people’s expectations, they will never forgive us,” said a senior Hurriyat leader on condition of anonymity. “Only a united Hurriyat will be in any position to lead and maintain the current momentum.

More than 10 lakh people responded to the Eid Ghah Chalo call sent out by the Hurriyat


“We have seen the beginning of militancy in our Valley through the ’90s. We have seen the crisis during the first elections in 1996 and as members of the minority community we still survived by sheer determination of not abandoning our heaven but now we shall pay the price for being on the other side of extreme militancy engineered by own brethren in our own land,” says a distraught Pran Nath Koul, a school teacher, who managed to stay in the Valley despite decades of militancy, but could not stand the threat caused by the mobilization of erstwhile lower heads of extremist Jehadi groups in the wake of Amaranth land row. Koul did not sleep at night just to guard his wife and three children from those who protected him even in adverse crisis. Koul’s family is one of the over 1,500 Hindu families who were not targeted by extremist Islamic Militants even through that time in the last 20 years.

BUSINESS FIRST

Koul’s sentiments are seconded by several Hindu families in the Valley who feel that their own Hindu brethren have left them fighting a cause that was never their own. Had their brothers in Jammu for the first time in the history of Jammu and Kashmir not blocked the economy of Kashmir after the Amaranth land row, they would still continue to live in peace.

Protestors torch a police van in Srinagar


“Whatever the people are doing is the manifestation of their anger against the government of India,” said senior Hurriyat Leader Bilal Lone. Sahil-ul-Islam, political advisor to Hurriyat chairman Merwaiz Umer Farooq said, “We have repeatedly informed Delhi about the anger in the new generation. The Kashmir issue remains unaddressed but they can’t take every Kashmiri for a ride as they did before. Mobilization is the only answer.

“Unity is the need of the hour and that is why the leadership is united once again and we just want to channelize it and carry out a peaceful, non-violent movement, keeping the aspiration of the people of Kashmir in mind. The bandage approach of the people of India is no longer needed and we want the issue to be resolved for once and for all,” said Hurriyat chairman Merwaiz Umer Farooq. The 32-year-old is considered a moderate Kashmiri separatist leader  and has a strong base in the Bakra community. The Bakras are traditionally well-to-do people based in Srinagar, and have been at the forefront of anti-India politics in Kashmir.

(L) Unity among pro-freedom leaders: Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Shabbir Shah (R) About 3 lakh people gathered for the UN rally at TRC ground at Srinagar


Sajad Bhat, an apple supplier whose business was hit by the blockade on the highway because of which his produce could not be transported for 10 days and suffered great loses said, “So far it was a battle between Jammu and Kashmir and with rest of India, but now it has become too personal. My driver, who was delivering fruits to a Delhi market, was beaten so badly that I had to compensate their family despite incurring huge loses in business. I do not believe in massacring those responsible for the economic blockade, but in future if this continues, I have no option but to support the cause of fellow businessmen who for no fault of theirs have become victims of vote bank politics.”

However, the point in question is not about individuals gains or loses, says Riyaz Khan a chemist in Srinagar who has been in business since 10 years. “I never used to visit religious meetings since I believe that the protector is bigger than the destroyer; I would not even have participated in rallies until my business got hampered. I have got six people to feed from the profits that I earn from the shop. I used to get adequate supplies from the distributors before the road was blocked. I could not support my family for those 10 days when my people were dying for the medicines that could have saved their lives,” he says.

CRPF personals in action


The political leadership of all hues in the Valley is in a dilemma. Rendered ineffective by the mass upsurge, they are unsure about the way out of this situation which most of them felt was too serious. A senior leader said that dialogue was the only way out. But he has no clue where and how to get started. “If India and Pakistan fail to include Kashmiris in the dialogue process, we will be forced to launch non-violent agitation in Kashmir,” rounded off JKLF Chief Yasin Malik.

[Mumbai Mrror]

Posted on 21 Sep 2008 by Webmaster

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Anatomy of the Kashmir crisis

September 8, 2008

Interview: Sanjay Kak

A humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Kashmir as Indian security forces impose a round-the-clock curfew across the valley.

More than 30 unarmed Kashmiri protesters have been killed by Indian forces in the last few weeks in an effort to stamp out mass demonstrations that have shaken the disputed region, which is partitioned by India and Pakistan, and where India has maintained a military occupation in the section it controls.

The demonstrations were sparked by the announcement of the transfer of 100 acres of public land to the Amarnath Shrine Board, but have since snowballed into a province-wide revolt. Hundreds of thousands of men, women and children have taken to the streets demanding “azadi” (freedom) and their right to self-determination. In response, Indian military and paramilitary forces imposed a curfew and media blackout, and have fired on large, unarmed rallies, killing dozens and injuring hundreds.

Sanjay Kak is a filmmaker whose recently completed documentary, Jashn-e-Azadi (How We Celebrate Freedom) was made over a period of several years in Kashmir. On August 16, days after the mass protests erupted, he spoke with Nagesh Rao.

Protesters demanding "azadi" confront riot police on the streets of Jammu in KashmirProtesters demanding “azadi” confront riot police on the streets of Jammu in Kashmir

WHAT IS the significance of the Kashmiri uprising?

I THINK part of the problem is that in India, our attention always comes in at the tail end of the story. Here it comes in when there is an explosion of resentment against the granting of lands to the Amarnath Shrine Board, and then we all act mystified: “How can there be so much resentment against something so small?”

That’s because no one paid attention to what’s been happening in the year prior, or the five years prior or, indeed, 18 years prior to this event. So there’s a kind of structured amnesia about what events bring us to this place.

And this is not an accident. Particularly when it comes to Kashmir, in India, it is a structured amnesia.

You’ve got more than 500,000 Indian soldiers in Kashmir. They are sitting in literally every street and village and by-lane and crossing and water-point, and then you begin thinking that peace has returned to Kashmir. But it hasn’t. You’re just sitting on top of people.

Then the media dutifully starts wheeling out the spin, and you’re told, “Oh, tourists are returning to Kashmir, all is well, the militancy is gone.” And everybody begins to believe it.

I once had a conversation with an army officer, and he said, “Things are very peaceful here now. As a Kashmiri, you should come and visit, as often as you like.” “Peaceful” is not a word I would use to describe what was around us, even where were sitting, in the officers’ mess, with a breathtaking view of the grand Wular Lake.

“But colonel, there’s a soldier with an AK-47 every 30 feet,” I said.

“No, no,” he said, “we’ve got the situation under control.”

“So when will you leave?” I said, “You know, troop reductions–cut by, say, 20 percent?”

“No, no, that’s out of the question,” he replied. “Everybody would be out on the streets, there would be an uprising.”

On the ground, that colonel commanding a military unit in Kashmir knows the score. The Indian security apparatus has taken 18 years to build a stranglehold on Kashmir, to control every aspect of daily life over there. That is the kind of “peace” that they hammered onto Kashmir.

In the wake of the armed uprising of the 1990s, which was represented as “terrorism” and an “Islamic jihad,” they managed to do what they had to do, because Indians–and the rest of the world–were a little confused about what was happening. But what are they going to do now, when there are no weapons in this uprising? There are just hundreds of thousands of people out on the streets. What are they going to do? Are they going to just start firing? And how many will they kill?

This is the real significance of what we are seeing. Until now, even ostensibly sympathetic Indians would throw the question at the Kashmiris: “Why did you take to the gun? You took to the gun, and you alienated the Indian people.”

This time around, they haven’t brought the gun out. They are coming out in vast numbers and demonstrating for what they believe in. They are coming out in the ways that Indian democracy ought to believe in. Only this time, the same liberal intelligentsia who wanted them to give up the gun are now calling these vast assemblies “violent mobs” of “extremists”!

In a sense, the Indian state is hoisted on its own petard, flummoxed. [Indian rulers] do not know how to react to this situation.

Continued . . .

Srinagar: Hurriyat calls for peaceful protests; curfew continues

September 1, 2008
SRINAGAR: Curfew continued across the Kashmir valley for the ninth day Monday with the Hurriyat calling for peaceful protests but authorities treading with caution following the deal to set aside 40 hectares of land for the Amarnath shrine board to use during the pilgrimage season.There were no reports of curfew relaxation from anywhere in the valley on Monday, when the joint coordination committee of both the Hurriyat groups, headed by hardline Syed Ali Geelani and the moderate wing chief Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, has called for peaceful protests.

“The curfew restrictions would be relaxed in a phased manner at different places, but only after careful assessment about the law and order situation by the district magistrates concerned,” a state government official said.

Though Sunday had started with curfew relaxations across the Valley, authorities said on Monday they were apprehensive that the separatist call might evoke a huge response.

On Sunday, curfew had to be reimposed quickly in the entire old city area of Srinagar, Kulgam, Shopian, Anantnag and Kupwara districts as violent protests broke out following the agreement between the Amarnath Sangarsh Samiti and the four-member panel of the state government regarding the 40 hectares of forest land.

The agreement, which led to the situation in Jammu cooling down, has been welcomed by the regional National Conference and the Congress parties here.

However, the People’s Democratic Party has opposed it saying it was “unilateral and amounted to surrender before communal forces by the administration”.

Playing with fire in Jammu & Kashmir

August 17, 2008

Praful Bidwai | The News International, August 17, 2008

Jammu and Kashmir is burning. Jammu has witnessed an intensely chauvinist, communal and violent agitation for over seven weeks over the cancellation of an order transferring 100 acres of forest land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board. This is pitting Jammu against Kashmir, ethnic groups against other ethnic groups, and Hindus against Muslims in dangerous new ways.

The Bharatiya Janata Party has politicised and exploited the agitation cynically. It imposed an economic blockade which closed the Jammu-Srinagar highway for weeks and brought goods transportation to a halt, causing great public suffering.

The explosion of intolerance in Jammu is reproduced like a mirror-image in the Kashmir Valley, where mainstream parties joined separatists in marching to Muzaffarabad with the ostensible aim of selling perishable fruit in Pakistani Kashmir—just when the blockade was lifted. More than 20 people were killed in condemnable, highhanded police action.

The twin agitations threaten J&K’s unity and plural, multi-cultural, and multi-religious character in unprecedented ways. In less than two months, the BJP has succeeded in driving an emotional and political wedge between Jammu and Kashmir—something that jihadi separatists working with Pakistani agencies couldn’t achieve in the nearly 20 years of the azadi movement.

The origins of the present ferment go back to the state government’s decision to establish the SASB, thus interfering gratuitously with spontaneous Hindu-Muslim cooperation in organising the pilgrimage for decades. It has promoted this on a gigantic scale.

Matters came to a head last May when the Congress-People’s Democratic Party government illegally transferred forest land to the SASB. This triggered militant protests in the Valley.

Hurriyat moderates and the PDP joined hardline separatists in giving a communal colour to the land transfer, prompting its cancellation—only to provoke counter-protests in Jammu, which were taken over by the BJP through the Shri Amarnath Sangharsh Samiti.

The twin agitations have deepened communal polarisation, and radicalised both Hurriyat and Hindutva hardliners.

The Centre failed to enforce the law and open the Jammu-Srinagar highway until it was too late. Its belated attempt to defuse the situation through an 18-member all-party committee hasn’t made headway.

The SASS wants the land re-transferred to the SASB and Governor N N Vohra removed. Such demands are vindictive or totally devoid of political rationality. This only shows that the BJP wants to prolong the Jammu crisis and milk it politically.

The SASS, a 28-group network, is basically a Sangh Parivar enterprise. Its three top leaders—Leelakaran Sharma, Mahant Dinesh Bharti and Brig (Retd) Suchet Singh—have RSS backgrounds and are closely linked with the J&K National Front, which demands the state’s trifurcation: Jammu and Kashmir as separate states, and Ladakh a Union Territory.

The demand is despicably communal. No wonder the RSS national council backed it in 2001. In the 2002 Assembly elections, the RSS supported the Jammu State Morcha, which demands statehood for Jammu.

Any division of Jammu and Kashmir along religious lines is a recipe for the separation of the Kashmir Valley from India. It will harden and freeze two opposing identities—a “Muslim Kashmir,” and a “Hindu Jammu.” Nothing could better help the Valley’s discredited pro-Pakistan Islamic separatists like Syed Ali Shah Gilani, who oppose a pluralist, secular identity for Kashmir.

The demand for trifurcating J&K will play straight into the hands of Pakistani hardliners who want to erase whatever progress has been made in informal talks seeking a solution to the Kashmir problem without redrawing boundaries, and who want to retrogress to the perspective of securing Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan—as part of “the unfinished agendas of Partition.”

Why has the BJP embarked on this dangerous course? It’s desperate to rescue its sagging fortunes by finding any issue on which to win support. It’s organising traffic blockades on the Amarnath issue nationally and mouthing shopworn clichés like “injustice to Hindus.”

The BJP even brazenly denies that there ever was an economic blockade in J&K! General secretary Arun Jaitley calls this “a myth” and contends that the Jammu agitation is entirely peaceful.

Yet, Jammu’s protestors, who increasingly resemble Hindutva’s storm troopers in Gujarat-2002 in appearance, have indulged in stone- and acid-throwing attacks on truck drivers. According to the far-from-hostile state government, Jammu has witnessed 10,513 protests and 359 “serious incidents of violence” on the Amarnath issue, in which 28 government buildings, 15 police vehicles and 118 private vehicles were damaged.

Eighty cases of communal violence were registered, in which 20 persons were injured and 72 Gujjar homes were burnt.

As many as 117 police personnel and 78 civilians were injured in the Jammu violence, and 129 cases were registered and 1,171 arrests made. Schools, colleges, government offices and hospitals were paralysed.

Grievances in Jammu, many of them legitimate, took this regrettably violent expression thanks to communalism’s baneful effect.

The BJP was pivotal in planning and executing this violence. Its leaders have gone Back to Basics—unembellished, crude, super-sectarian Hindutva.

L K Advani just can’t wait to become prime minister. His speeches have become shrill, and his body language has changed. This is no longer the Advani who wanted to inherit the “moderate” Vajpayee legacy. This is the Advani of many past Rathyatras—aggressive, warlike, spewing communal venom, and leaving a trail of blood.

Advani will now stoop to any level to collect political brownie points, regardless of the issue. The other day, the issue was the UPA government’s alleged weakness in the face of terrorism. Then, it was the India-US nuclear deal, the culmination of a long process the BJP itself initiated, and which its urban-middle-class core constituency supports.

Now, Advani is drumming up Hindu-chauvinist hysteria over 100 acres of land, laying claim to it on the specious ground that the Hindus must have the first claim to land anywhere in India by virtue of their numerical majority—and hence primacy.

This is an egregiously, if not classically, anti-secular proposition.

Why is the BJP so desperate? Barely one month ago, after a series of Assembly wins, it had primed itself up into believing that its victory was imminent in the next Lok Sabha. It even started announcing candidates.

But the BJP was badly checkmated during the confidence vote. It lost it—despite trying every trick in the book. Worse, Advani was eclipsed by Mayawati’s dramatic emergence as an alternative.

The BJP’s plans went awry. The victorious and now aggressive Manmohan Singh couldn’t be convincingly depicted as “India’s weakest-ever prime minister.” The BJP botched up its in manipulative political act, where it’s supposedly unmatched.

It wanted to create a Bofors out of the cash-for-votes “sting.” But after the CNN-IBN tapes’ telecast, that looks like collusive but ineffective “entrapment.”

The highest number of MPs defying their party whip during the confidence vote were from the BJP. Thanks to its MPs’ involvement in the “cash-for-questions” scam, human trafficking, and the latest acts of defiance, the BJP has lost 17 of its original 137 Lok Sabha seats.

The National Democratic Alliance once had 24 members. Now it’s down to five.

As trouble brews in all of its state units, the BJP will use inflammatory tactics to buoy up its fortunes. The Indian public will have to pay the price—unless it sends the party packing.

The writer, a former newspaper editor, is a researcher and peace and human-rights
activist based in Delhi. Email: prafulbidwai1@yahoo.co.in

Muslims take to streets as Kashmir protests continue

August 14, 2008

Yahoo News, Thu Aug 14, 4:41 AM ET

SRINAGAR, India (Reuters) – Protesters shouting “we want freedom” took to the streets of Kashmir on Thursday as a land dispute between Muslims and Hindus boiled into a litmus test of New Delhi’s hold on the troubled Himalayan region.

The row pits Muslims in Kashmir against Hindus in Jammu — the two main regions which make up the state of Jammu and Kashmir — in what is one of the hardest challenges facing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government since it took office in 2004.

At least 23 people have been killed and over 500 injured in clashes between Muslim protesters and police this week, hospital records show.

The protests are some of the biggest since a separatist revolt against New Delhi broke out in the region 20 years ago.

The dispute over land allocated to Hindu pilgrims visiting a shrine in Kashmir has snowballed into a full-scale anti-India protest, uniting Kashmiri separatists and reviving calls for independence.

A curfew remained in force in many parts of the state, but the protests seemed not to have spread elsewhere.

“I strongly condemn the reign of terror let loose by the Indian forces against the besieged people of Kashmir,” said Mohammed Yasin Malik, who led a protest in Srinagar.

“Indian troops cannot suppress our struggle.”

The dispute began after the Kashmir government promised to give forest land to a trust that runs Amarnath, a cave shrine visited by Hindu pilgrims. Many Muslims were enraged.

The government then rescinded its decision, which in turn angered Hindus in Jammu who attacked lorries carrying supplies to Kashmir valley and blocked the region’s highway, the only surface link with the rest of India.

Challenging the blockade, Kashmiris took to the streets.

Muslim Pakistan, which controls part of Kashmir, condemned the violence, sparking angry protests from India which accuses its nuclear-armed rival of supporting Kashmiri separatists.

Through Wednesday night, thousands of Kashmiri protesters shouted anti-India slogans, condemning security forces. Hundreds of Muslims also assembled in mosques and shrines which relayed the slogans on loudspeakers.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch urged India to show restraint.

“The Indian government should order troops and police to refrain from using lethal force against violent protesters in Jammu and Kashmir unless absolutely necessary to protect life,” it said.

(Reporting By Sheikh Mushtaq; Editing by Krittivas Mukherjee and David Fox)

Muslims demand independent Kashmir as Indian police kill 13

August 13, 2008

Tension rises as thousands gather for funeral of separatist leader

By Andrew Buncombe, Asia Correspondent
The Independent, Wednesday, 13 August 2008

An Indian policeman is hit by an object thrown by a protester in Srinagar yesterday

Reuters

An Indian policeman is hit by an object thrown by a protester in Srinagar yesterday

Indian Kashmir has been convulsed by the biggest pro-independence rallies for two decades, with tensions between Muslims and Hindus spilling over into violence that has so far claimed 13 lives and left more than 100 people injured.

The deaths were a result of Indian police and troops firing on Muslim protesters who were defying a curfew imposed by the authorities following the killing of a high-profile separatist leader. In some of the worst violence in the region in recent years, there were at least a dozen shooting incidents as large numbers of Muslims ignored the curfew and took to the streets.

In Srinagar last night up to 10,000 people defied the curfew to bury the separatist leader, Sheikh Abdul Aziz, whose body had been taken to the city’s main mosque.

Mr Aziz, a senior figure within the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, a coalition of more than two dozen moderate religious and social groups campaigning for independence for Kashmir, was killed on Monday along with four other people when police fired into a crowd of Muslims protesting against what they said was a Hindu blockade of the road linking the Kashmir Valley to the rest of India. The protesters, up to 100,000 strong, were trying to march to the Pakistan-controlled part of Kashmir when the shootings took place.

The deaths are the latest violent twist in a summer of increasing tension in Kashmir that was initially sparked by a row over land being donated to a Hindu shrine. In June, faced by protests from Muslims, the state government reversed the decision it had taken to donate 99 acres of land to the Shri Amarnath shrine, a site of pilgrimage that draws thousands of Hindus a year from across India. In turn, the decision to reverse the donation angered Hindus in the state. Since then, tensions between the two communities have worsened, amid evidence that local politicians have sought to use the row to further their own interests.

As a result, not only have there been the largest demonstrations for independence in the past 20 years, but trade between the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley and the Hindu-dominated region around the city of Jammu, has been drastically curtailed. Muslims say the government is behind a blockade of a 185-mile link road that is leaving many communities low on food and medicine. They also complain that hundreds of truckloads of Kashmiri fruit are going to waste because they cannot be delivered and are rotting in the heat. The situation is so bad that producers are now demanding to be allowed to export their crops across the border to Pakistan.

“The first thing is that the whole event is very undesirable in terms of both the domestic situation in Jammu and Kashmir and its linkage with the larger bilateral peace process [between India and Pakistan],” C Uday Bhaskar, a strategic analyst, told Reuters. “I think this will have a bad impact and considering that Pakistan is going through bad turmoil now, the overall impact on the peace process will not be very positive.”

Indian-administered Kashmir has long been a flashpoint for religious violence and an estimated 68,000 people have been killed in the past two decades as a multitude of militant groups have fought either for independence or a merger with Pakistan. But in the past couple of years a fragile peace had descended upon the state, to the extent that Indian authorities had begun once again to promote Kashmir as a tourist destination

After Sheikh Aziz was killed in Chehel, about 30 miles from the border between the two portions of Kashmir, the Indian authorities imposed the curfew.

At the burial last night of Mr Aziz and the four other people killed with him, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, chairman of Hurriyat and the most powerful separatist leader in Kashmir, told a huge crowd of mourners: “Sheikh Aziz’s death is big loss to the Kashmir nation, we will take his mission to its logical end.” Another leader of the organisation, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, also attended the funeral, defying both the curfew and house arrest.

As the crowd chanted for independence, Mr Farooq added: “Our struggle for complete independence from India will continue. No power on earth can deter us from achieving this.”

Continued . . .

See also:

Guardian: 14 protesters shot dead in Kashmir

The London Times: Kashmir under curfew after 19 deaths

India detains Kashmir separatists

August 9, 2008
Al Jazeera, August 9, 2008

The tensions in Kashmir have stoked separatist sentiments anew [AFP]

Three separatist leaders in Indian state of Kashmir have been placed under house arrest to prevent them from leading a protest by the Muslim community.

The leaders have been identified as Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Omer Farooq and Shabir Shah.

They represent the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, an alliance of separatist groups, and, according to police, they were detained as a preventive measure on Friday.

However, on the same day, thousands of Kashmiri Muslims took to the streets to protest.

Police said they used tear gas and batons to control the demonstrators and prevent them from marching to a local UN office.

Prabhakar Tripathi, a spokesman for Central Reserve Police Force, said at least five paramilitary soldiers were injured.

He gave no figures for casualties among the protesters.

Shops, businesses, government offices and schools remained closed in protest for a fourth day on Friday in Srinagar.

‘Fomenting trouble’

SM Sahai, the police chief of Jammu and Kashmir, declined to comment on the three separatist leaders’ detention, but said, “they may be pretending to lead peaceful protests, but they actually foment trouble”.

Anger between Hindus and Muslims in the Himalayan region has been on the rise since June when the Jammu and Kashmir government decided to award 99 acres of land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board, a trust that maintains the Amarnath shrine, a revered Hindu site.

The shrine contains a large icicle revered by Hindus.

The state government was forced to revoke the land transfer last month after a week of often violent protests by Muslims, who said building Hindu settlements in the area would alter the demographics in the state.

However, the reversal of the government decision triggered massive streets protests by Hindus in Jammu as well as Samba, a town on its outskirts.

Muslims claim they are being targeted in Jammu, the only Hindu-majority city in the state, with Hindu mobs attacking their shops and homes and chanting slogans demanding Muslim Kashmiris leave the area. They claim security forces are not doing enough to protect them.

The violence has escalated sharply over the last two weeks and so far six people have been killed in the new clashes.

The casualties include a Muslim man killed when a tear gas shell hit him while he was protesting in Srinagar.


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