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Despite land deal, Kashmir plans more protests PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 03 September 2008

REUTERS, SRINAGAR, India, - Sporadic clashes broke out in Muslim-majority Indian Kashmir on Monday as anger festered against a deal with Hindu groups to resolve a land dispute that has paralysed and polarised the state.

The dispute over forest land near the Hindu cave shrine of Amarnath has sharply divided Hindu-majority Jammu and mainly Muslim Kashmir.
 
At least 38 people, mostly Muslims, have been killed since the row snowballed into some of the biggest pro-independence demonstrations in the Kashmir Valley since a revolt against Indian rule broke out in 1989.
 
The government announced a deal with Hindu groups on Sunday, sparking celebrations in Jammu.
 
In Kashmir, however, the deal has been rejected by separatists and some mainstream parties. A curfew remains in place but more protests are planned, separatists said.
 
Police fired rubber bullets at protesters in Srinagar, Indian Kashmir's summer capital, hitting a roadsweeper in the chest with a rubber bullet.
 
Most shops remained closed in the city.
 
Central police, mostly Hindus who do not speak the Kashmiri language, patrolled nearly every street corner armed with automatic rifles and batons. Barbed wire cordoned off entire neighbourhoods.
 
Barbed wire cordoned off entire neighbourhoods. Many passers-by stopped to show journalists bruises they said had come from police beatings. International human rights groups have criticised Indian troops for using excessive force.
 
COMPROMISE REJECTED
 
The land dispute began in June after the state government promised to give forest land to a trust that runs Amarnath, a cave shrine visited by Hindu pilgrims.
 
Muslims were enraged, the government backtracked, and then Hindus protested, blocking the highway to the Kashmir Valley.
 
The state government has now promised to allow temporary shelters to be built during the annual pilgrimage.
 
Muslim separatists have rejected the deal, and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a mainstream party that believes in Kashmir's unity with India, called the agreement a "move to disrespect the popular sentiments in Kashmir".
 
One local newspaper on Monday splashed two photos side by side on its front page.
 
The first showed Hindus celebrating the land deal with a smiling policeman in Jammu. The second showed a Muslim youth lying in hospital after being shot by police, echoing Kashmiri sentiments that India's government favours Hindus over Muslims.
 
For many Kashmiris, the land dispute was only the spark for wider simmering discontent about 60 years of Indian rule.
 
"We will continue our peaceful protests. What we want is freedom, nothing else," said Zaffar, a 23-year-old student.
 
India has intensified a crackdown against separatists and detained at least five separatist leaders, including a top woman leader, in an effort to defuse protests.
 
Tens of thousands of people have been killed in Kashmir since the armed revolt against New Delhi's rule broke out in 1989.

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