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Clashes Grip Indian Kashmir Over Allotment of Land to Hindu Trust


Three people have been killed and more than a hundred others injured in violent clashes that have erupted in Indian Kashmir, surrounding the controversial transfer of land to a Hindu shrine trust. Anjana Pasricha has a report from New Delhi on the latest violence gripping the Kashmir Valley.

Security forces lobbed tear gas shells, as thousands of angry protestors pelted them with stones in Kashmir's Summer capital, Srinagar, and nearby towns, Thursday. Shops, businesses, schools and colleges shut down and roads were empty.

It was the fourth straight day that violent protests have gripped the region.

The demonstrations erupted after the state government decided to transfer about 40 hectares of forest land to a Hindu board that organizes an annual pilgrimage to a popular Hindu shrine in Kashmir.

The land is to be used to erect pre-fabricated huts to house thousands of Hindu pilgrims who trek to the Amarnath shrine, located in a high mountain cave.

But protesters accuse the government of trying to change the demography of Muslim-majority Kashmir by building settlements for Hindus.

At least three people have died and 100 others injured in the clashes, so far.

The state's chief minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad, has appealed for peace and has pledged that their will no construction on the land until the issue is resolved.

Azad says he will convene a meeting of all political parties to give everyone an opportunity to present their point of view and to build a consensus.

But it may not be easy to find a solution to the contentious issue. The demonstrations in Kashmir have raised tempers among Hindu groups in Kashmir's Winter capital, Jammu.

A Hindu nationalist group, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, shut down Jammu City, Thursday. It has threatened to block supplies of essential commodities to Srinagar, if the government cancels the land allotment for the pilgrims.

The pilgrims have been demanding better facilities as they either trek or ride ponies to the Amarnath cave to pray to an ice stalagmite they believe is a symbol of Hindu god, Shiva.

Kashmir was wracked with violence for 15 years, as separatist groups and Islamic militants waged a campaign to separate the region from mostly Hindu India. However, the region has been relatively peaceful in recent years.

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