Curfew in Indian Kashmir to thwart separatist rally

October 7, 2008

SRINAGAR, India (AFP) -- Thousands of Indian security forces enforced a strict curfew in Kashmir on Monday to prevent separatists from holding a pro-independence rally.

Organizers behind recent anti-India protests in Kashmir have urged the residents to rally during the day in Lal Chowk, or Red Square, in the heart of summer capital Srinagar.
But city authorities imposed the curfew on Sunday and detained key separatist leaders to stop the march taking place.
Security vehicles fitted with loudspeakers drove through the streets of Srinagar, ordering people to stay indoors as security personnel patrolled the deserted streets.
""We are enforcing a strict curfew across Srinagar and other (Muslim-dominated) towns,"" police officer Pervez Ahmed told AFP.
Over the past few months the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley has been hit by some of the biggest demonstrations since the eruption of an insurgency against New Delhi's rule in 1989.
The protests were triggered by a row over a government donation of Kashmiri land to a Hindu pilgrimage trust and spiraled into anti-India demonstrations that have left more than 40 Muslim protesters dead.
Senior separatist and Muslim cleric Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who is under house arrest, said authorities were ""unnerved that people in huge numbers were likely to attend the peaceful rally.""
""The clamping of curfew is our victory and it has exposed Indian democracy,"" Farooq told AFP by telephone.
He said there would be attempts by separatists to reach Red Square on Monday.
The authorities said the demonstration would not be tolerated.
""If there are attempts to violate the curfew, security forces will have to respond,"" said the state's top bureaucrat Anil Goswami.
The demonstrations had subsided during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, but separatists have vowed to re-ignite them with Monday's rally.