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Strike shuts down Kashmir in India

Srinagar, September 20, 2008

Shops and businesses remained shut and people were forced to stay indoors in Kashmir's main city on Saturday, as a strike called by separatists against Indian rule took hold, police said.

Recent protests are some of the biggest since a separatist revolt broke out in the disputed Himalayan region in 1989. The one-day strike called by the Jammu-Kashmir Coordination Committee, a new alliance of Muslim separatists, representatives of businesses and lawyers, closed schools and colleges.

Police and paramilitary soldiers patrolled the deserted streets in Srinagar, Kashmir's summer capital, a scenic city of 1.1 million people.

Recently it has witnessed frequent strikes and protests over Islamic issues, separatist causes or alleged rights violations by Indian troops. At least 37 protesters have been killed by government forces since last month in the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley, since fresh protests broke out. More than 1,000 people have been injured in clashes.

The protests were sparked by a government decision to grant land to build shelters for Hindu pilgrims travelling to Kashmir, one of the world's most militarised regions.

"Protest against Indian occupation peacefully," hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, appealed to people in a statement.

"We are taking forward the unfulfilled mission of thousands of martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the noble cause of freedom," his statement said.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed since rebels launched a violent campaign opposing Indian rule in Kashmir nearly 20 years ago. The strike also shut down other major Kashmir towns, police officers said.

The mass protests come at a time when violence involving Indian troops and separatist guerrillas has declined significantly after India and Pakistan, who have fought wars
over the region, began a slow-moving peace process in 2004.

But people are still killed in shootouts and occasional explosions.- Reuters




Tags: India | strike | Kashmir Valley | Srinagar |

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