August 21, 2008

Hindu and Muslim Conflicts Rock Kashmir

In the biggest demonstration in almost twenty years, tens of thousands of Muslims gathered in Indian Kashmir’s main city in mid-August following the fatal shooting of 22 protesters by Indian police.

According to Agence France-Presse, one of the dead was a senior Kashmiri separatist, Sheikh Abdul Aziz, whom one demonstrator was quick to lionize.

“He is our hero — he has laid a fresh foundation for our freedom struggle with his martyrdom,” demonstrator Ayub Laway said.

The unrest began in June when a piece of land was given to a Hindu trust.

When Muslims — the majority population in the Kashmir valley — protested, the government rescinded the land offer.

Hindus counter-protested and extremists blocked the local highway, fueling protests between the two that have spread across the region for the past two months.

India and Pakistan both claim Kashmir as theirs, but they only rule parts.

The recent demonstrations are the largest separatist protests since Muslim rebels battled against Indian rule in 1989.

Indian police guaranteed restraint at the demonstration, held just a week after fights with protestors left hundreds injured and 22 dead.

–Julia Hengst/Newsdesk.org

Source:

“Thousands rally in Indian Kashmir to mourn dead protesters”
Agence France-Presse, August 16, 2008

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