Police detain top Kashmir separatist leader
Saturday, 30 August 2008

REUTERS, SRINAGAR- Police detained on Friday a prominent Kashmiri separatist leader wh o led some of the biggest protests in two decades against India's rule in the Himalayan region, police said.

The arrest came as security forces intensified a crackdown against separatists across Muslim-majority Kashmir valley and extended a curfew in the disputed region for a sixth straight day on Friday to quell pro-independence rallies.
 
"Shabir Shah was detained during a raid on a hideout," a police official said.
 
Shah, dubbed by supporters "Kashmir's Nelson Mandela" for the more than 20 years he has spent in prisons for opposing Indian rule, is an executive member of the region's separatist alliance, All Parties Hurriyat (Freedom) Conference.
 
Police have also detained four other separatist leaders, including a top woman separatist, since Monday in an effort to defuse protests.
 
At least 30 Muslim protesters have been killed by security forces in the past three weeks and more than 600 have been injured in demonstrations in Kashmir Valley after a land dispute between Muslims and Hindus snowballed into massive pro-separatist demonstrations.
 
The crisis has strained relations between India and Pakistan, which both claim the region in full but rule in parts, damaging a tentative peace process and raising fears Kashmir could again become a hotspot between the two nuclear rivals.
 
Tens of thousands of people have been killed in Kashmir since the armed revolt against New Delhi's rule broke out in 1989.
 
The recent conflict over land also sparked large protests in the Hindu-majority region of Jammu, sparking fears of communal conflict gripping parts of the state of more than 10 million people previously less affected by violence.
 
Indian troops have been criticised by Kashmiris and human rights groups for using excessive force, with reports that they have attacked journalists and ambulance drivers.
 
The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has called for the Indian government to show restraint and investigate the killings.
 
The crisis began after the Kashmir government promised to give forest land to a Hindu trust that runs Amarnath, a cave shrine visited by Hindu pilgrims. Many Muslims were enraged.
 
The government then rescinded its decision, which in turn angered Hindus in Jammu who attacked lorries carrying supplies to the Kashmir Valley and blocked the region's highway, the only surface link with the rest of India.
 
Challenging the blockade, Kashmiris took to the streets.

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