Police, Protesters Clash As Fury Erupts In Indian Kashmir

5 August 2008
Agence France-Presse


Srinagar: Two policemen were killed Tuesday when thousands of angry Hindus in Indian Kashmir stormed a police post as religious tensions reached a new pitch in the insurgency-racked state, police said. The policemen were killed when the protesters attacked the isolated police post in the mainly Hindu region of Jourian in the south of the Muslim-majority state. A rescue team 'could not reach the spot in time to save them,' said a senior police official, asking not to be named. Some 4,000 Hindus were involved in the attack, he said, adding he had no more details. The latest violence erupted after the state government reneged on a plan to transfer land to a Hindu shrine, plunging Kashmir - already in the grip of an Islamic separatist insurgency - into new turmoil. The deaths came despite a curfew imposed on the Jammu region by the army last weekend. They followed the killing of two Hindu protesters Monday in the Jammu area in police firing after demonstrators attacked buses and cars. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh scheduled an all-party meeting in New Delhi for Wednesday to discuss how to defuse tensions in Kashmir, India's only Muslim-majority state. Singh is keen to get assurances from the main opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janta Party it will not fuel tensions amid reports party activists were halting trucks carrying supplies for the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley. However, Hindu leaders warned the demonstrations would continue. 'We will keep up the protests until the land is given back to the shrine,' said Leela Karan Sharma, head of a Hindu alliance spearheading the protests. Kashmir, where the 19-year revolt has left at least 43,000 dead, had been enjoying a lull in violence against the backdrop of India's peace process with Pakistan to settle the disputed region's future when the row erupted in June. In the valley, meanwhile, protesters hurling bricks battled police in the state's main city Srinagar as fury intensified over attacks on Muslims by Hindus in the Jammu area. Tensions were stoked by the death the previous day of a Muslim protester hit by a police tear gas shell in Srinagar. Protesters blocked roads and set vehicles ablaze. Police used teargas and batons to disperse the rioters. Police said 13 people were hurt in the clashes. Jammu's Muslims alleged many of their houses were set ablaze by Hindu rioters and said they were getting threats to leave the region. 'We're living in constant fear,' says Shah Mohammad Chowdhary, a Muslim leader in Jammu, saying police had not interfered as 'our homes were being torched.' A police official reported only a 'few arson incidents' and said 'we are trying our best to restore order.' A leading Muslim separatist Yasin Malik launched in Srinagar a 'fast unto death' to protest attacks on Muslims and attempts by Hindus to impose an economic blockade on the valley. 'My fast unto death is to highlight the plight of innocent Muslims both in Jammu and the Kashmir valley,' Malik said.