Kashmiris Protest India Parliament Raid Sentence
5 August 2005
Srinagar: Indian police detained at least 10 protesters in Kashmir on Friday as hundreds demonstrated against the death sentence handed out to a Kashmiri Muslim for a raid on the country's parliament four years ago. India's Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a lower court's death sentence on Mohammed Afzal, a resident of south Kashmir. Afzal was found guilty of involvement in the December 2001 parliament raid in which five gunmen killed nine people before being shot dead. On Friday, ordinary people as well as activists of the main separatist alliance opposed to Indian rule in Kashmir took to the streets to protest in the region's main city of Srinagar and the southern town of Sopore, Afzal's hometown. 'Hanging of a freedom lover can never suppress the love for freedom,' read a banner waved vigorously by protesters from the All Parties Hurriyat (Freedom) Conference before police detained at least 10 of them. 'We are releasing them shortly,' a police official said, adding that the protesters had been detained for defying a ban on unauthorised public meetings. In Sopore, scores of protesters led by senior separatist leader Yasin Malik marched against the verdict. 'By hanging Kashmiris, India will achieve nothing,' Malik, the chief of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, told the crowd. 'They hanged Maqbool Bhat and thousands of Maqbools were born,' he said, referring to the group's founder, who was hanged in 1984 for killing an Indian intelligence officer. New Delhi blamed Pakistan for the parliament raid which brought the two nuclear-armed rivals close to a fourth war. Islamabad denied any involvement in the attack. On Thursday, while upholding Afzal's capital punishment, the top court commuted the death sentence given to another man involved in the raid to a 10-year jail term. The court also upheld the acquittal of a third man, a college lecturer. More than 45,000 people have been killed in the separatist revolt in Indian Kashmir since 1989 and violence has continued despite a 19- month peace process between India and Pakistan.