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Twelve killed as Indian Kashmir land row boils PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 13 August 2008

SRINAGAR, India, Tue Aug 12, (bdnews24.com/Reuters) - Police shot dead at least 11 people in Indian Kashmir on Tuesday as Muslim protests against what they said was an economic blockade by Hindus over a land row began to morph into independence calls, officials said.

Violence swept up the neighboring Hindu-dominated Jammu region as well, where one person was killed and several injured when Hindus and Muslims clashed.

At least 100 people were injured and 11 killed in a dozen separate incidents of police firing across Kashmir a day after four people, including a separatist leader, were killed by police trying to stop Muslim protesters from crossing into Pakistan.

Muslim protesters shouted slogans against the government as they buried the separatist leader in downtown Srinagar.

"This is not protest against land transfer, in fact this is anger against India," Pakiza Dar, a college teacher, yelled.

"Down with security forces, we want freedom," others shouted.

A land dispute has polarized Indian Kashmir, split between the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley and the Hindu-dominated region around Jammu city, severely curbing trade between the two areas.

As a result, traders in Kashmir are trying to sell their goods in neighboring Pakistan.

The protests have widened to become pro-independence rallies, some of the biggest since a separatist revolt against New Delhi broke out in the region 20 years ago.

On Tuesday, some 20,000 Muslims defied a curfew in Bandipora, about 60 km (40 miles) north of Srinagar, Kashmir's summer capital, to protest against Monday's killings.

Protests erupted as Kashmir's main separatist alliance, the All Parties Hurriyat (Freedom) Conference, prepared to bury senior leader Sheikh Aziz, among the four people killed by police as he led Monday's march.

"Sheikh Aziz's death is big loss to Kashmir nation, we will take his mission to its logical end," said Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, chairman of Hurriyat.

Analysts said the protests had brought the focus back on Kashmir and endangered a sputtering 2004 peace process between India and Pakistan that had helped bring down violence.

"I see this will have a bad impact and considering that Pakistan is going through a bad turmoil now, the overall impact on the peace process will not be very positive," said C. Uday Bhaskar, a senior strategic analyst.

ANGER

India reacted angrily to a statement by Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, condemning "excessive and unwarranted force" in Kashmir.

"Such statements by leaders of a foreign country do not help the situation. Nor do they contribute to creating the atmosphere necessary for the dialogue process between India and Pakistan to move forward," India's foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement.

Indian authorities also denied any economic blockade and said lorries, guarded by policemen and soldiers, were plying the region's main 300-km (185 mile) highway, the only surface link between Kashmir valley and the rest of India.

The Indian government said it was trying to find a solution through negotiations and help traders sell their goods across the border in Pakistan.

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

The government then backed down from its decision, which in turn angered many Hindus in Jammu.

The land row has sparked some of Kashmir's worst religious riots. At least 20 people have been killed and hundreds injured.

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