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Police kill five as Kashmir land row boils PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 14 August 2008

Srinagar, India, Aug 12 (bdnews24.com/Reuters) - Police fired on protesters in Indian Kashmir on Tuesday, killing five people as huge demonstrations against what Muslim traders said was an economic blockade by Hindus roiled the region, officials said.

Several people were injured in two separate firing incidents which came a day after four people, including a separatist leader, were killed by police trying to stop tens of thousands of Muslim protesters from crossing into Pakistan.

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.

"Security forces opened fire and killed three of them," Nizam Ahmad, an official from Bandipora, said.

Police also fired on another protest rally just south of Srinagar, killing two people. Elsewhere, they fired in the air and used tear gas to quell demonstrations, witnesses said.

Protests erupted as Kashmir's main separatist alliance, the All Parties Hurriyat (Freedom) Conference, prepared to bury senior leader Sheikh Aziz, among 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.

Indian authorities denied any economic blockade and say 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 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. Over a dozen people have been killed and hundreds injured.

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