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India clamps down on mounting Kashmir protests

Haroon Mirani

Srinagar, August 25, 2008:

Faced with mounting pro freedom demonstrations, some the largest in decades, Indian authorities clamped a curfew in major towns of Indian administered Kashmir including summer capital Srinagar.

At least four people are reportedly killed in police firing on protestors defying the curfew.

Hundreds are injured and scores have been picked up for defying curfew.

Three top separatist leaders, including the chairmen of both the factions of Hurriyat Conference have been arrested, ahead of a major separatist rally planned for Monday.

While Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, and Syed Ali Geelani were arrested in overnight raids, Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front Chairman Yasin Malik was arrested Monday morning.

Residents complain that Indian troops and federal police were using "excessive unprovoked force".

Muneeb Ahmad a resident of Eidgah Srinagar said paramilitary troops barged into their locality, "chanting provocative Hindu slogans", beating up people and breaking window panes.

"They threw some two dozen stones at our house. At least ten window panes were broken, while my family members had a narrow escape from injuries," Ahmad said. Civil rights activists say troops are intimidating people to "quell the anti-India uprising".

The basic rights of people remain suspended as troopers are in full control of the state.

People are not allowed to move out of their doors even to get milk or bread, as the curfew is said to be severest during the last 20 years.

"I have not seen something like before. The troopers are simply telling us that we will shoot you if you dare to set a step outside your houses," said one Zahoor Ahmad in Srinagar. "It is a sheer military rule."

Newspapers failed to hit the stands as journalists faced the ire of troopers.

Atleast 21 journalists were injured when troopers thrashed them since Sunday. Some of them had to be hospitalised.

Authorities also banned local cable channels from telecasting news and current affairs programme.

The SMS (Short Messaging Service) on mobiles has already been blocked by authorities earlier this month.

To further prevent the escalation, hundreds of thousands of army personnel deployed in Indian administered Kashmir have been kept on stand by, in case situation goes out of hand.

An estimated one million people gathered in Srinagar's Eidgah on Friday in response to call by separatists, in perhaps the biggest ever pro-freedom demonstration in the region.

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