Sunday, August 24, 2008

Kashmiris demand independence and defy curfew

Dozens injured defying curfew in Kashmir Valley, army alerted

Source: Hindustan Times, August 24, 2008

F. Ahmed , Indo-Asian News Service

Srinagar, August 24, 2008

At least 25 people, including two policemen, were injured as stone pelting mobs defied curfew and fought street battles with security forces in Srinagar and all across the Kashmir Valley on Sunday.

Almost all the injuries were reported from Beerwah town in central Badgam district, 45 km from Srinagar.

Small groups of young men came on to the streets in the Old City’s Khanyar and Nowhatta areas defying the curfew restrictions.

“The mobs are engaging the CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) and the police. We have used tear smoke and batons. The situation is under control but the army is on standby in case we need their help,” a senior police officer told IANS in Srinagar.

Mobs also gathered in uptown areas like Hyderpora, Rawalpora and Chanapora in Srinagar.

Similar reports of mass defiance of curfew came from north Kashmir’s Handwara town where protesters fought with the police and the paramilitary forces.

The authorities imposed a valley-wide curfew Sunday morning in a desperate bid to preempt Monday’s separatist march to the city centre Lal Chowk. The march has been called by the co-ordination committee of all the separatist groups in Jammu and Kashmir.

The separatists carried out a massive show of strength at the Eidgah grounds here Friday, attracting tens of thousands in what turned out to be one of the biggest gatherings in Jammu and Kashmir’s history.

Sunday’s march and sit-in at Lal Chowk has been called to internationalize the dragging Kashmir dispute.

The authorities here had been allowing the separatist marches since Aug 11 when the ‘Muzaffarabad Chalao’ march ended on a bloody note, leaving senior separatist leader Sheikh Abdul Aziz and five other protesters dead in firing in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district.

An official statement in Srinagar on Sunday said that the curfew had been imposed throughout the valley “as a precautionary measure following intelligence inputs that some vested interests would target senior separatist leaders, Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and Muhammad Yasin Malik” during Monday’s Lal Chowk march.

Meanwhile, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, chairman of the moderate Hurriyat group, Sunday reiterated that the march to Lal Chowk would take place despite the curfew.

Mirwaiz Umer also trashed the official statement that the curfew had been imposed to save the lives of separatist leaders.

“We have no such threat,” he said, asserting that the authorities had been unnerved by the massive public response to the calls given by the separatist Kashmiri leadership.

The present turmoil in the valley initially started against the allotment of 40 hectares of forest land to a Hindu board that manages the affairs of the annual pilgrimage to the Amarnath cave shrine in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district.

The land allotment order was later revoked by the authorities, triggering counter protests in the state’s Hindu dominated Jammu region.

The unrest in the valley has since turned into a full scale separatist campaign, resurrecting the demands of Kashmir’s secession from India.

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