Indian Kashmir tense after new anti-India protests

Indian Kashmir was tense on Thursday after thousands of anti-India protestors chanting “We want freedom” poured on to the streets during the night in defiance of a curfew in the revolt-hit region.

The protests, which erupted in the main city Srinagar late on Wednesday and ended before dawn, were the latest in a wave of some of the worst demonstrations to shake the Muslim-majority region in two decades.

Defying a curfew, thousands of people streamed outside bellowing “We want freedom” and “Allah is great,” reviving memories of the early 1990s when protests went on all night in support of the separatist insurgency.

“It’s just like the 1990s when we spent nights on the streets shouting at the top of our voices,” said government employee Sofia Jabeen (40), who was among the protesters.

Kashmir has been in the grip of violent anti-India protests since Monday, which were met with police and army gunfire, killing 21 people—all of them Muslims—and leaving more than 600 injured.

Leaders of the protest used mosque loud hailers across the city to summon demonstrators.

The protesters returned home after police and separatist leaders made televised appeals for calm in Srinagar, urban hub of the Islamic revolt that erupted in 1989.

“I appeal to residents to maintain the peace,” police chief Syed Mujataba said.

“Our protests should be peaceful,” echoed hard-line separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani.

On Thursday, security forces patrolled Srinagar as authorities relaxed the curfew for a few hours to allow residents to stock up on supplies. The streets were littered with stones from earlier demonstrations.

The latest protests were sparked by charges that security forces had stormed houses, ransacking them and roughing up occupants. Police said they were investigating the allegations.

A curfew also remained in force in several other Muslim towns where clashes were reported during the past three days between protesters and security forces.

The violence, triggered by a Hindu-Muslim land dispute, has polarised the state along religious lines and led to some of the deadliest clashes since the revolt broke out.

It has also fanned fears communal tensions could spread beyond Kashmir.—AFP


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