Sunday, September 07, 2008

Indian troops and protesters clash in Indian-controlled Kashmir; 1 dead

AIJAZ HUSSAIN

AP News, Sep 06, 2008 07:06 EST

Thousands of angry people took to the streets in Indian Kashmir to denounce the killing Saturday of a protester by government troops who fired rubber bullets and tear gas shells at Muslim demonstrators chanting anti-India slogans, an official said.

Shops and businesses were closed and public buses stayed off the roads across much of the Indian-administered region Saturday in response to a strike called by Muslim separatist groups protesting Indian rule in the disputed region.

The strike was called by the Jammu-Kashmir Coordination Committee, whose members include Muslim separatist leaders and representatives of businesses, lawyers and government employees.

A few hundred protesters chanting “We want freedom” and other anti-India slogans clashed with government troops who tried to prevent them from marching, said Prabhakar Tripathi, a spokesman for the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force.

The angry crowd threw rocks at the soldiers, who responded by firing rubber bullets and tear gas shells, Tripathi said. Several people, both protesters and troops, were injured, he said.

One man died from injuries to his chest, said Wasim Qureshi, the doctor who attended to him. He gave no other details.

News of the man’s death fueled more clashes as thousands took to the streets to protest the killing. In at least two other areas of Srinagar, protesters burned tires and hurled rocks at troops who fired tear gas to control the crowds, Tripathi said.

More than two months of angry protests have left at least 43 people dead in Indian-controlled Kashmir, most of them killed when soldiers opened fire on Muslim protesters.

The unrest, the worst to hit Kashmir in more than a decade, was triggered by a government move to hand over land to a Hindu shrine. Muslim separatist leaders launched protests in June saying the government plan was aimed at changing the demography of the Muslim-majority region.

The plan was quickly scrapped, angering the region’s Hindu minority who also launched massive protests, forcing authorities to allow Hindu pilgrims temporary use of land near the shrine.

The Muslim separatists’ demonstrations have snowballed into a broader anti-India movement.

Kashmir has been divided between Hindu-majority India and predominantly Muslim Pakistan since 1947 when the two fought their first war over the region in the aftermath of Britain’s bloody partition of the subcontinent. Both countries continue to claim Kashmir in its entirety.

A separatist insurgency in Indian Kashmir has killed an estimated 68,000 people since 1989.

Source: AP News

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