Reuters North American News Service
Sep 19, 2008 05:37 EST
SRINAGAR, India, Sept 19 (Reuters) - Shouting anti-India slogans, thousands of Muslims marched in Kashmir’s main city on Friday, part of an ongoing campaign against New Delhi’s rule that has become an embarrassment for the Indian government.
The current round of protests are some the biggest since a separatist revolt broke out in the disputed Himalayan region in 1989, a conflict that has killed thousands of people.
Thousand of policemen and soldiers were deployed across the region ahead of protests called by Muslim separatists after Friday prayers.
“Go India go, we want freedom,” shouted protesters led by separatist leader Yasin Malik in Srinagar, Kashmir’s summer capital.
At least 37 protesters have been killed by government forces since last month in the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley. More than 1,000 people have been injured.
The protests were sparked by a government decision to grant land to build shelters for Hindu pilgrims travelling to Kashmir, one of the world’s most militarised regions.
Shops, businesses and schools were closed on Friday and streets in the strife-torn region wore a deserted look. Only security patrols were on the roads.
“I appeal to people to protest peacefully,” Malik told the protesters, many of them carrying his picture.
The protests come at a time when violence involving Indian troops and separatist guerrillas has declined significantly after India and Pakistan, who claim the region in full and have gone to war over it, began a slow-moving peace process in 2004.
But people are still killed in shootouts and occasional explosions. (Reporting by Sheikh Mushtaq; Editing by Krittivas Mukherjee and Sanjeev Miglani)
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