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India to Deploy More Troops in Kashmir


India is deploying additional troops in Kashmir, which has been engulfed in week-long protests triggered by a dispute between Hindus and Muslims over allotment of land for Hindu pilgrims. As Anjana Pasricha reports from New Delhi, at least nine people have been killed and hundreds more injured in the unrest that has gripped the region.

Hundreds of Hindus defied curfew orders and marched in Kashmir's summer capital, Jammu, on Thursday to reiterate their demand for the transfer of about 100 acres of land in Kashmir to a Hindu shrine trust. The Hindu-dominated Jammu region has witnessed similar protests for nearly two weeks.

The Muslim-dominated Kashmir valley, which opposes the land transfer to the Hindu trust, was also gripped by protests. In Srinagar, security forces fired tear gas and used batons to break up demonstrations.

Tensions have flared in Kashmir between Hindus in the Jammu region, and Muslims in the Kashmir valley, after the state government first allotted the land for Hindu pilgrims,
then revoked the order following violent protests by Muslims.

The Muslims say handing over land to the Hindu trust was an attempt to build Hindu settlements in Kashmir. Hindus say the land is needed to build shelters for pilgrims who trek every year to the revered Amarnath shrine high in the Kashmir mountains.

Ravi Shankar Prasad, a spokesman for the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, says the government will have to address the concerns of the common people in Jammu, who are spearheading the protests.

"There is a political consensus in the country that regardless of political divide, the government always makes provisions for convenience of any faith," said Prasad. "Suddenly if Jammu and adjoining areas are on the boil today, even a curfew is not able to break their morale. Therefore there is a great sense of being wounded."

Protestors in Jammu have vowed to continue their campaign till the land is again handed over to the Hindu trust. The government has already deployed army troops in the city,
and says it will deploy an additional 10,000 troops to control the unrest.

Protestors in Jammu have blocked a key highway that links the Kashmir valley to the rest of the country.

That has enraged people in Kashmir, who say they are being targeted by Hindus in Jammu. Abdul Ghani Bhat, a leader of a separatist political alliance called the Huriyat Conference, says people are angry at being subjected to what he calls an "economic blockade".

"The resentment is bordering alienation which is complete, total and deep. A blockade is an act of war against the people in the Valley. This has to end," he said.

On Wednesday , Indian political leaders appealed for calm following all-party talks convened by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to discuss the protests. The leaders called for a dialogue to end the unrest - the worst witnessed in Kashmir in nearly two decades.

The violence in both Jammu and Srinagar has already claimed nine lives. Dozens more have been injured in the protests that show no sign of dying down.

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