Indian troops enforce curfew in tense Kashmir

August 25, 2008

SRINAGAR, India (AFP) -- Thousands of Indian security forces were enforcing a strict curfew in Kashmir on Sunday, a day ahead of a planned rally by Muslim separatists.

""Curfew is in force. Please don't come out of your homes,"" policemen announced through loudspeakers fitted on police vehicles across Kashmir's summer capital, Srinagar.
Muslim separatists, opposed to Indian rule in the region, have held four massive demonstrations during the past two weeks, reviving calls for independence in the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley.
They had announced plans to hold a rally on Monday in the historic city centre of Srinagar.
""The curfew has been imposed to preempt the rally,"" a police officer told AFP, requesting not to be named.
On Saturday, a general strike to protest Indian rule brought the region to a halt.
The strike was to continue on Sunday, as overnight hundreds of Kashmiris took to the streets with traditional hay torches chanting ""We want freedom"" and ""Allah is great.""
A government official said the curfew was a ""precautionary measure"" because of some information that separatist leaders could be the targets of violence.
He did not specify who might target the separatists, who immediately rubbished the government claim.
""They are scared of our peaceful but massive demonstrations for freedom,"" Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, the region's leading cleric, told AFP.
""Such repressive measures will not work. We will emerge stronger and more vibrant,"" he said, adding that Monday's rally would go ahead.
Overnight, security personnel also raided the residences of several separatists and detained some.
The recent troubles were triggered by a state government plan announced in June to donate land to a Hindu shrine trust in the Kashmir valley. The decision was later reversed after massive Muslim protests, angering Hindus.
Since June, at least 31 Muslims and three Hindus have died in police firing on protesters and other violence in the Kashmir valley and mainly Hindu Jammu area.