Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Mourners killed as Indian soldiers fire into Kashmiri funeral crowd

Indian security forces today fired into a crowd that had gathered for the funeral of a prominent Kashmiri separatist leader who was shot dead yesterday, killing three people.

The shootings, on the second day forces had fired into the crowd, came amid rising violence in Indian Kashmir, India’s only Muslim majority state.

The violence has seen many parts of the region, including the winter capital, Srinagar, put under curfew.

The roots of the crisis lie in a tug of war between the state’s Hindus and Muslims over 100 acres of land.

Tensions escalated after a blockade of the highway by Hindu groups cut off the mountainous Kashmir region, where Muslims predominate, from the plains of Jammu, where Hindus are the majority.

As a result, traders in Kashmir have been trying to sell their goods in neighbouring Pakistan.

Kashmiri separatists called on protesters to continue their march to Muzaffarabad, in Pakistani Kashmir, today.

Yesterday, Sheik Abdul Aziz, a senior figure in the separtist Hurriyat Conference, was killed along with four other people as they attempted to cross the disputed border with Pakistan. More than 150 were injured.

“Sheikh Aziz’s death is big loss to the Kashmir nation … we will take his mission to its logical end,” Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, the chairman of Hurriyat, told Indian television.

Violence began when the state government handed over 100 acres of land for pilgrimage facilities to be built at a popular Hindu shrine at Amarnath, in the Himalayas, in May.

The land dispute has deeply divided Indian Kashmir, and this week has seen some of the region’s worst religious rioting.

Spiralling violence has shattered the relative peace of the past four years in Indian Kashmir, which is also known as Jammu and Kashmir.

The state could still face a violent insurgency, but tensions had eased after India and Pakistan agreed to a peace process in 2004.

See BBC latest: : at least 10 protesters shot dead
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