Kashmir Separatists Under House Arrest

24 April 2009
Agence France-Presse

Srinagar: Police in Indian Kashmir placed the troubled region's separatist leaders under house arrest Friday, triggering protests and clashes with police that left 10 people injured. The police said the action was necessary to prevent the leaders addressing rallies aimed at shoring up support for an election boycott. Voting in Kashmir for India's general election has been split into five stages for security reasons. The first two rounds passed off peacefully but next week polling moves to the region's more sensitive Muslim-majority areas. 'We have placed a number of separatist leaders under house arrest to maintain law and order,' a police officer, who declined to be identified, told AFP. Muslim separatist groups have called on Kashmiris to boycott the elections, saying they will not resolve the future of the disputed territory, held in part by India and Pakistan but claimed in full by both. Syed Ali Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq - the heads of the hardline and moderate factions of the region's main separatist alliance - were among those detained in their residences in the summer capital Srinagar. The homes of other high-profile separatists Yasin Malik, Javed Mir and Nayeem Khan were also ringed by police and the occupants told not to leave. They had all planned to address anti-election rallies in Srinagar and other towns of the region on Friday. 'They are not allowing me to move out of my house,' Malik said. 'It is undemocratic to stop people from running a poll boycott campaign.' Hundreds of angry Muslims demonstrated in Srinagar against the detentions. Police fired tear gas to break up the protests which degenerated into a running battle, with the demonstrators pelting the security forces with stones. A Muslim insurgency against Indian rule in Kashmir has claimed 47,000 lives in the past 20 years. The poll boycott call has been backed by the most powerful militant group active in Indian Kashmir, Hizbul Mujahedeen, which warned that anyone casting a ballot would be considered a 'traitor.'