The region largely came to a standstill on Wednesday in response to a call for a strike by various separatist groups.
 
In the capital, Srinagar, armed riot police charged two demonstrations in an attempt to prevent protesters from reaching the office of the United Nations Military Observers Group (for India and Kashmir), UNMOGIP.

The protest of about 150 activists of the Hurriyat Conference, an alliance of separatist parties, was led by Gulam Nabi Sumji, a senior leader in the body.

Police, backed by India's federal paramilitary forces, blocked the protesters' path and Sumji and a dozen others were seized, bundled into police vehicles and taken to a local police station.

Others were chased into nearby alleys by gun-wielding police, witnesses said. 

Memorandum to UN

About half a dozen protesters, however, managed to reach UNMOGIP'S summer headquarters located about 1.6km from Lal Chowk (Red Square), the nerve centre of Kashmiri politics.

Protesters are demanding a
referendum on future of Kashmir

Police rushed to the scene but were too late to stop the protesters from handing over a memorandum to UN military observer Robert Molin, who said he would forward it to UN headquarters.

The memorandum singed by the alliance faction leader, Sayid Ali Shah Jilani, asks for the implementation of the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

These resolutions passed several decades ago envisage the holding of a plebiscite in the region disputed by India and Pakistan.

It also called for UN Secretary General Kofi Anna's intervention towards ending alleged human rights violations by Indian troops and other security forces combating a 16-year-old rebellion inside Kashmir.

Second protest

Later on Wednesday members of another separatist group, the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Forum, led by its leader, Javed Ahmed Mir made a similar attempt to reach out to UNMOGIP.

A UN representative accepted
a memorandum from protesters

But police intervened and arrested Mir and two of his colleagues. Other protesters were chased from the area.

During the strike on Wednesday only 40% of government employees reported to work, while shops and other businesses closed for the day in a city of over a million people.

Kashmiri lawyers boycotted courts and renewed the demand for a plebiscite to decide the future of the state.

In downtown Srinagar, youngsters took to the streets to raise pro-freedom slogans hurling rocks at vehicles breaking the strike call.

However the shutdown failed to evoke any response in other regions of the Himalayan state.

Indian hold

A second group of protesters
did not make it to the UN office

In Jammu, the winter capital of Kashmir, regional Hindu leader Bhim Singh's National Panthers' Party organised an Accession to India Day.

At a rally, speakers including Singh rededicated themselves "to fight out tooth and nail any attempts being made within the state or from outside it to take Jammu and Kashmir out of India."

On 1 January 1948 India made a formal appeal to the UN Security Council requesting it to call upon Pakistan to put an end immediately to the giving of assistance to rebels which it said was an act of aggression against India. Pakistan vehemently denied the charge.

The rebellion led to the first Kashmir war between India and Pakistan who both claimed the former princely state.

The state of Jammu and Kashmir often referred to as 'Paradise on Earth' was divided after the first war in 1947- 48. India and Pakistan fought another war over Kashmir in 1965.

Turmoil

In 1989 the Kashmiri campaign for independence from India burst into a major conflict. India responded ruthlessly.

The crackdown and uprising has resulted in the deaths of thousand of people. Police and hospital estimates put the figure at 43,000. But local human rights and political groups say between 80,000 and 100,000 people have died.

Islamabad backs a plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir as is envisaged by UN Security Council resolutions.

New Delhi insists that the Himalayan state is an integral part of India. However of late the two South Asian neighbours have agreed to resolve the issue amicably by holding talks.