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Indian police clash with Kashmir separatists

Latest update : 2008-08-25

Three demonstrators were killed by police gunfire during a pro-independence march in Kashmir on Monday, said police. A strict curfew, now on its second day, has done little to curb separatist rallying, while three leaders have been arrested.

Indian security forces opened fire on pro-independence demonstrators in Muslim-majority Kashmir on Monday, killing at least three people, while more than 100 were hurt in clashes, police said.
   
The protesters were shot as troops struggled to disperse anti-India marchers who rallied across the dispute-hit region in defiance of a strict curfew.
   
Authorities also arrested three leading separatists ahead of a planned rally on Monday in the centre of Srinagar, the main city in Indian-ruled Kashmir.
   
One of the protesters killed Monday was a man shot on the outskirts of Srinagar, while another man was killed in Pulwama town, 30 kilometres (18 miles) away, police said.
   
"Security forces had to open fire when protesters attacked them with stones and sticks," police officer Imtiaz Ahmed told AFP.
   
The third protester, a woman, was killed in a village north of Srinagar when security forces opened fire on demonstrators who had "violated curfew restrictions," police said.
   
Police reported more than 100 people were injured Monday across the Kashmir valley in clashes between security forces and demonstrators.
   
The recent troubles have been triggered by a state government plan announced in June to donate land to a Hindu shrine trust in the Kashmir valley. The decision was later reversed after massive Muslim protests, angering Hindus.
   
The strict curfew was imposed starting Sunday to "discourage separatist rallies during which residents have openly paraded green Islamic flags and chanted pro-militant and anti-India slogans," a police official told AFP.
   
Residents said shops and offices were shuttered and the streets were empty.
   
"We are not even being allowed to peep out through windows," said Fayaz Ahmed, 42.
   
"We have called in the army to assist the police in enforcing curfew," police Inspector General S.M. Sahai told reporters in Srinagar.
   
Thousands of troops were deployed Monday to the venue where protesters had planned to rally, Srinagar's Red Square, with fencing and barbed wire blocking entry points so people could not gather.
   
The square is where India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru in 1948 promised Kashmiris the right to decide their future in a referendum on self-determination.
   
"It is very tense out here. There are only policemen visible on the streets," said Joginder Singh, a Red Square resident.
   
Police used loudspeakers to urge residents to stay indoors.
   
Masarat Alam, Geelani's top aide, accused India of using "all its might to suppress our peaceful movement" and demanded to know the whereabouts of the separatist leaders.
   
Syed Ali Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who head the hardline and moderate wings of the region's separatist alliance, were arrested overnight, police said.
   
The pair led a series of large pro-independence demonstrations over the past two weeks. State-owned media said the men were being held for "instigating crowds and causing law-and-order problems."
   
Police refused to disclose their whereabouts out of fear crowds might try to free them, but said they were safe.
   
"We appeal to the world to rise and save Kashmiris," Alam said, as a separatist coordination committee called for a "total strike" Tuesday against Indian rule.
   
A third senior separatist, Yasin Malik, was detained as he tried to reach Red Square on Monday, witnesses said.
   
Since June, at least 35 Muslims and three Hindus have died in police shootings on protesters in the Kashmir valley and the mainly Hindu area of Jammu.
   
A man was shot dead Sunday evening by police after he defied the curfew. Thousands of people attended his funeral shouting, "We want freedom" and "We will spill blood for blood."

Date created : 2008-08-25

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