Monday, August 18, 2008

Kashmir UN march is 'not allowed'

BBC News, August 18, 2008
Protesters in Kashmir
Many marchers were not allowed near the UN building

Separatist leaders in Indian-controlled Kashmir have called off their planned march to the UN office in Srinagar.

They were to submit a memorandum to the UN outlining their demands, including their right to self-determination.

The leaders addressed a rally attended by thousands but called off the march after the authorities said that the crowds would not be allowed to proceed.

More than 21 people died last week in the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley during police firing on protesters.

The unrest began two months ago when a small piece of land was awarded to a trust running a Hindu shrine.

This provoked Muslim anger. The government then rescinded its decision, triggering furious counter-protests from Hindus in Jammu.

Tight security

Tens of thousands of people gathered at a ground in Srinagar. The crowds chanted pro-Pakistan and pro-freedom slogans.

Demonstration on Monday in Srinagar
Thousands attended the rally, despite political differences

They were addressed by Maulvi Omar Farooq, Shabir Shah and Yasin Malik, senior leaders of the Hurriyat Conference - the umbrella group of separatists.

The Hurriyat leaders said they were calling off the march because the security forces were not allowing the crowds to proceed towards the UN office.

They said they would ask their supporters in the US to hand over a memorandum to the UN, listing their demands.

Meanwhile, the BBC's Altaf Hussain in Srinagar says there is trouble brewing in the Hurriyat leadership.

Our correspondent says that evidence of that was seen when the hardline Hurriyat leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, appeared at the rally and declared himself the leader of the Kashmiri movement for independence.

"The question of leadership (of the Kashmiri movement) has not been resolved yet," Mr Geelani said in his address.

"Do you accept me as your leader?" he asked the crowd.

While his supporters cheered and shouted yes, those supporting other Hurriyat leaders began shouting slogans against him.

Meanwhile, a few hundred slogan-shouting protesters also gathered outside the UN office.

Members of Kashmir's bar association handed over a memorandum at the gates of the UN office.

Security across the city is tight and police barricades have been put up everywhere to control the crowds.

Much of the Kashmir valley remained paralysed last week by a shutdown called by separatist groups.

Police in Srinagar say the curfew has now been lifted in several districts, but local people say this is not true.

People hoisted black flags in many parts of Srinagar on India's independence day last Friday.

After years of relative calm, the demonstrations in the valley are the biggest in a decade, analysts say.
Post a Comment