Indian Kashmir Separatists Detained To Avert More Protests

1 July 2008

Srinagar: Top separatists in Muslim-majority Indian Kashmir were placed under house arrest on Tuesday in a bid to avert more protests in a row over giving land to a Hindu body in the revolt-hit region. The detentions came as a strike shut shops, schools, banks and post offices for a ninth day in Srinagar, summer capital of the scenic Himalayan state where a bloody revolt has raged against Indian rule for nearly two decades. The detentions were aimed at pre-empting a planned march by separatists to Kashmir's main mosque in Srinagar, police officer Pervez Ahmed said. The entire separatist political leadership was under house arrest, except for hardliner Syed Ali Geelani who managed to evade police, he said. Among those detained were the region's leading cleric Umar Farooq, Shabir Shah, known as Kashmir's Nelson Mandela for the years he has spent in Indian jails and Yasin Malik. The protests continued despite a weekend promise by Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad that his cabinet would scrap the plan to allow a Hindu trust to build accommodation for visitors to a Hindu shrine. Residents said police and paramilitary officers were enforcing an 'undeclared' curfew in most parts of Srinagar. 'We're not being allowed to come out of our homes. They say a curfew is in force,' resident Mushtaq Ahmed told AFP by telephone. But police denied issuing curfew orders. Separatists have warned the protests will continue until the land transfer is formally rescinded. The government's move last month to provide land to the Hindu trust, the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board, prompted huge protests and violent clashes across the Kashmir valley. Four protesters were killed in police firing and more than 330 people have been injured in the clashes that erupted on June 23. The protests have evoked memories of the widespread anti-India protests that swept the region after a separatist insurgency broke out in 1989. Separatists charge the land transfer was a ploy to settle Indian Hindus in Kashmir. But officials dismiss the allegations, saying New Delhi has never tried to encourage Hindu migration to the Himalayan region. The government's decision to revoke the decision to give land to the trust has angered Hindus concentrated in the southern part of the region.