Growing Kashmir Protests Over Land To Hindus

27 June 2008

Srinagar: Shops, offices and banks shut for the sixth consective day on Saturday in Indian Kashmir as protests over provision of land to a Hindu pilgrim body deepened. Three Kashmiris have died in police fire this week and nearly 240 have been injured in clashes, evoking memories of widespread anti-India protests that swept the region after a separatist insurgency broke out in 1989. Daily life has halted in the main city of Srinagar since the protests began on Monday. Protesters have been setting fire to roadside bunkers, destroying government property and hoisting green Islamic flags. Protests have spread to other parts of Muslim-majority Kashmir valley. On Friday, tens of thousands of people poured onto the streets of Srinagar in some of the biggest pro-freedom protests in almost two decades. Police braced for fresh protests on Saturday as scores of youth raised roadblocks by burning tyres and held noisy roadside demonstrations, AFP reporter and photographer said. 'People have every right to register their protest but it should be within the ambit of law,' Srinagar police chief Syed Mujtaba told reporters. The unrest was sparked by a state government decision last week to transfer some land to a Hindu trust for the construction of accommodation for tens of thousands of Hindu pilgrims making an annual pilgrimage to a mountain grotto. Separatists say it is a ploy to settle Indian Hindus in Kashmir. Officials dismiss the allegations, arguing that New Delhi has never tried to encourage Hindu migration to the disputed region. The Indian constitution also prohibits outsiders from buying land in Kashmir. Tensions have remained high despite a promise by the state's chief minister that no construction activity would be permitted until further notice.