Sunday, April 27, 2008

Kashmiris protest rights violations by forces

The Peninsula, Web posted at: 4/26/2008 0:52:58
Source ::: REUTERS
Activists of Jammu Kashmir Muslim Khawteen Markaz shouting pro-Independence slogans as they march during a demonstration in Srinagar, yesterday. (EPA)

SRINAGAR • Police in Kashmir's main city fired tear gas yesterday to disperse several thousand demonstrators protesting against alleged human rights violations by Indian security forces.

The protest came hours after Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh began a two-day visit to the troubled Himalayan region, where tens of thousands of people have been killed since a revolt against New Delhi's rule broke out in 1989.

The demonstration erupted weeks after the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), an independent group in Kashmir said they discovered nearly a thousand unmarked graves in cemeteries in 18 villages close to the Line of Control, which divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

More than 3,000 people led by Kashmir's chief cleric, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, marched through streets of Srinagar, the summer capital of Kashmir, carrying banners reading: "Stop human rights violations."

"We want freedom, long live Pakistan," protestors shouted.

Half a dozen people were injured after police fired teargas shells at stone-throwing protestors.

Police said they later escorted Farooq, also chairman of Kashmir's main separatist alliance, the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, safely home.

"We ask Indians and the world community, whose graves are these? ... Human rights violations in Kashmir have increased and we will continue protest," Farooq said in his Friday sermon before leading the protest demonstration.

Police said they also placed four Hurriyat leaders under house arrest as a preventative measure earlier yesterday.

The APDP estimates up to 10,000 people have gone missing following their arrest by security forces during the nearly two-decade-old separatist revolt in Kashmir, and says many of the missing could have ended up in these unmarked graves.

Authorities in Kashmir have denied the allegations, saying such reports were intended to malign Indian security forces. According to authorities, separatist militants have kidnapped and murdered people.

Amnesty International has appealed to Indian authorities to urgently investigate unmarked graves in north Kashmir.

Officials say violence has declined in Kashmir since India and Pakistan, who have gone to war twice over the region, launched a peace process in 2004.

But people are still killed in daily shootouts.

Indian troops shot dead four suspected militants in separate shootouts across Kashmir since Thursday evening, police said.
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