Strike, Security Restrictions Close Indian Kashmir13 July 2011
Srinagar: Businesses shut down and troops patrolled the main city in Indian Kashmir on Wednesday as separatists protesting Indian rule declared a strike on the anniversary of a bloody 1931 uprising. 'Martyrs' Day' marks the occasion when 21 Kashmiri Muslims were ordered killed by the army of the state's Hindu king to quell their revolt. Police and paramilitary soldiers erected steel barricades across roads in the old parts of Srinagar, the main city in Kashmir. The Himalayan region is divided between rivals India and Pakistan but both countries claim it in its entirety and have fought two of their three wars over it. People were warned to stay indoors, said resident Ghulam Mohiuddin, adding an undeclared curfew was in force in the city. Traditionally both separatists and pro-India Kashmiri groups commemorate the day. The state government has declared a holiday but key separatist leaders were under house arrest to stop them from leading public rallies. Top police officer K. Rajendra Kumar said an assembly of more than five people was banned. 'These restrictions are in place to avoid any law and order situation,' Kumar said. Early Wednesday, pro-India leaders including chief minister Omar Abdullah, the top elected official in India's Kashmir, paid homage to the men slain in 1931 at their graves under tight security. Those under house arrest included key separatist leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Nayeem Ahmed Khan, said a police officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media. Police also detained Shabir Shah, a top separatist leader, and nearly two dozen other activists after they tried to hold a rally, he said. 'The mission of the martyrs of 1931 is still incomplete. We reiterate our commitment to the martyrs that our struggle will continue, come what may,' said Farooq, the separatist leader. Anti-India sentiment runs deep in Kashmir, where separatist politicians and armed rebels reject Indian sovereignty and want to carve out a separate homeland or merge the region with neighboring Pakistan. More than 68,000 people, mostly civilians, have died in the more than two decade conflict.