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Kashmir clashes mar India's independence day

Latest update : 2008-08-16

In Kashmir, separatist groups have declared Indian independence day a "black day".

While most of India celebrated Independence day with flags and cheers, in Kashmir, the ethnic and separatist tensions that have been building up over the last weeks erupted into violence.


In this disputed region, administrated by India since 1948, muslim separatists called for a “civil curfew”. Inhabitants were asked to stay at home and hoist black flags in front of their houses.


Despite this unofficial curfew, about one thousand protesters fought with the police in the streets in Srinagar. More than 20 protesters were taken to the hospital, four with gunshot wounds.


Meanwhile in an empty stadium in Srinagar, officials celebrated Independence day as the State’s governor saluted marching policemen and paramilitary soldiers.



Journalists not welcome



A journalist from the national channel Aaj Tak was badly beaten by the Central reserve Police Force. Another cameraman from Sahara TV - a national television network that broadcasts in Hindi - was attacked by a mob.


"We are not able to do our work," said Sahara’s chief correspondent Bilal Bhat, justifying the network’s decision to stop sending journalists on the field.


Peerzada Ashiq from reference daily The Hindustan Times feels “it is becoming very chaotic and scary for the journalists to do an unbiased report”.


Most of the Delhi-based news channels now fear to go in this disputed area, especially since the separatist coordination committee has blamed them for downplaying the situation in Kashmir.


“All we want is to let the media report the incidents in a correct perspective. If these channels don’t report objectively, we will have to take action against them,” warned separatist leader Nayeem Khan.


Religious unrest begins anew in Kashmir


After years of relative calm, the unrest began anew two months ago in the Kashmir valley region, when a small piece of land was given to a trust running a Hindu shrine, provoking Muslim anger.


Since then, conflicts with the police have been frequent. Kashmir had not faced such turmoil since the 1989 separatist rebellion.


This time tensions have again taken a religious aspect.


Last week, in Jammu, the western part of the state, where 70 % of inhabitants are Hindus, Indian nationalists also demonstrated in the streets.


Although the official curfew was lifted on Independence day, a patriotic pause does not hide the deep divisions between the two communities.


Date created : 2008-08-15