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Central & South Asia
Second day of protests in Kashmir
Hundreds of Kashmiri Muslim and Hindu protesters clash with government forces.
Last Modified: 05 Aug 2008 19:38 GMT
Muslim Kashmiris have accused India of trying to alter the demography of the state [AFP]

Hundreds of Kashmiri Muslim protesters have clashed for a second day with government forces in the main city of Indian-administered Kashmir, officials said.

Police and paramilitary troops fired tear gas to disperse the crowd in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian-controlled Jammu-Kashmir on Tuesday.

The clashes come a day after a Muslim protester was killed demonstrating against alleged attacks on Muslims by Hindus in the Jammu region of Jammu-Kashmir.

Sajjad Haider, editor-in-chief of the Kashmir Observer told Al Jazeera that in Jammu, "where the agitation has been alarming, Muslims have been targeted by right-wing Hindu groups".

"The unfortunate part is that the government of India has been totally caught off guard and the situation has developed into full-scale confrontations.

Land promise

The spate of violence comes after the government in Jammu-Kashmir, India's only Muslim-majority state, decided in June to award 99 acres of land to a trust that maintains the Amarnath shrine, a revered Hindu site.

The Jammu-Kashmir government had planned to build shelters for Hindu pilgrims visiting Amarnath.

Kashmiri Muslim leaders say the confrontations will continue [AFP]
But the state government was later forced to revoke the land transfer after protests by Muslim Kashmiris who called the move an attempt to alter the demography of the state.

The provincial government's decision to stop the transfer of land in response to protests by Muslims, triggered protests by Hindus, who have been accused of attacking Muslim protesters, sparking further demonstrations.

Haider said: "They have let things worsen in Jammu. There have been no measures taken so far to contain the violence which has been exerted against minority [Muslim] members and government property.

"On the other hand we have seen in the Kashmir valley that the [Indian] government has come down heavily on protests [by Muslims] against the violence on minority [Muslim] members, which have been peaceful.

"In Jammu, they have taken a soft approach against protesters who are obviously a minority there."

Muslim Kashmiri leaders say the confrontations will continue.

Syed Ali Shah Geelani, a separatist leader fighting Indian government forces for a Kashmir with closer ties to Pakistan, said the "peaceful protests" would continue after "harassment of Muslims by Hindu extremists".

A Hindu group leader, Shri Amarnath Yatra Sangrash Samiti, who organised some of the protests, said: "We stick to our core demand, restoration of land."

Monday violence

Two Hindu protesters were shot dead and at least 14 police and paramilitary soldiers were injured in Jammu city on Monday, during Hindu protests against the government's U-turn, a government statement said.

Shops and businesses in Srinagar have closed in response to the alleged assaults on Muslims by Hindus.

Demonstrations by Hindus in the Kashmiri valley have stopped transport along the region's major highway, preventing food, fuel and medical supplies from reaching towns and cities.

Trader associations said lorries loaded with vital goods such as medicines, vegetables, meat and fuel were stranded on the region's main 300km highway, the only surface link between the Kashmir valley and the rest of India.

About a dozen Muslim groups in the state have been fighting Indian government forces to carve out a separate homeland or to merge Jammu-Kashmir with Pakistan.

More than 68,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed since the start of the conflict in 1989.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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