"I couldn't resist coming out to demand freedom from India," he said, as he marched towards the UN office carrying a placard that read: "If freedom for Kosovo, why not for Kashmir?"

The marchers included men, women and children, who chanted slogans including "We want freedom" and "We will give blood for Kashmir's freedom".
  
Many also carried green or black flags - symbolising Islam and mourning.

Hundreds of lorries and buses overflowing with protesters, some sitting on roofs and hanging out of windows, had made their way across the disputed Himalayan region to Srinagar for the protest.

Petition presented

The crowd tore down a barbed wire fence to reach the UN office, where organisers from Kashmir's main separatist All Parties Hurriyat (Freedom) Conference alliance, handed over a petition against Indian rule.
  

Buses and lorries loaded with protesters head to Srinigar [AFP]
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, a separatist leader, said that the plea urges the UN "to intervene and help us in achieving the right to self-determination".

Syed Ali Shah Geelani, another leader, told the crowd to demand "the UN, the US, Britain and international community to come and see what people want here".

"This is a struggle for right to self-determination," he said. "The UN should send its peacekeepers to Jammu as well as Kashmir."
  
There are decades-old UN Security Council resolutions calling for a referendum to allow the Kashmiri people to choose between India and Pakistan, but they have never been implemented.
  
Last week, 22 Muslim demonstrators were killed in police firing in the Kashmir valley as they vented their anger over a blockade of the area by Hindu hardliners.

Land dispute
  
The latest tensions between Muslims and Hindus centre around a small piece of land in the valley that was awarded to a Hindu pilgrimage trust, sparking Muslim protests.
 
The land transfer order was then rescinded, sparking a blockade by Hindus who dominate the south of Jammu and Kashmir state - from where the main road access to the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley comes.

Manmohan Singh, India's prime minister, has called for calm in the region.

"All political parties, all right-thinking people must work together to bring the situation under control," he told reporters outside parliament in New Delhi.

Hindu-majority Jammu also saw more protests on Monday as thousands of people defied a ban on public gatherings there and gathered in large groups hoping to court arrest.

Suchet Singh, one of the organisers, said that such gatherings would go on for three days and that more than 100,000 people were expected to take part.