Police tear gas Kashmir protesters

Pro-Pakistan group calls for strike as Indian president visits disputed territory.

    Protesters erected barricades to block police [Reuters]

    Police in Indian-administered Kashmir have used tear gas to disperse about 150 pro-Pakistan separatist demonstrators amid a strike called to protest against a visit by the Indian president.

    Police fired the gas on crowds in Kashmir's main city on Saturday, a day after Pratibha Patil began her five-day tour of the disputed region.

    The protesters, some shouting anti-Indian slogans and throwing stones, had earlier gathered in the streets of Srinagar, Kashmir's summer capital, which had largely been deserted except for patrols by large numbers of police and soldiers.

    Most people had remained at home and many shops, businesses and schools were closed due to a strike, called by Syed Ali Shah Geelani, a separatist advocate who heads the All Parties Hurriyat Conference.

    Strike action

    The move was supported by Hizb-ul-Mujahidin, the main armed group fighting Indian rule in Kashmir.

    "We appeal to people to observe a complete strike on Saturday to protest against the Indian president's visit," Geelani said.

    "The strike would be a mark of protest against the Indian occupation of Kashmir."

    "We want to convey to the Indian president that Kashmiri people are against Indian occupation of Kashmir," he said.

    Soldiers tightened security by erecting checkpoints at street crossings, while police and the army patrolled the area to prevent protests.

    Patil, who became India's first female president last year, addressed Indian troops and visited a military control line dividing Kashmir between India and Pakistan on Friday.

    Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan.

    Both claim it in entirety and have fought two wars over control of the territory since gaining independence from Britain in 1947.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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