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India Enforces Curfew in Kashmir Before Planned Separatist Rally

  • Shahnawaz Khan

Police in Indian Kashmir fired tear gas and used batons to disperse protesters who defied a curfew imposed in Muslim-majority areas ahead of a planned separatist rally. Officials say one protester was shot dead by police. Dozens of people were injured, including several journalists. Shahnawaz Khan has more from Kashmir's largest city, Srinagar.

Thousands of security forces have been deployed to enforce a curfew in the Muslim-dominated Kashmir Valley ahead of a separatist rally planned for Monday. But thousands of people took to the streets in defiance of the curfew Sunday, and Muslim separatists said they would go ahead with the planned rally on Monday.

The news agency Press Trust of India reported that at least 15 journalists were beaten by members of an Indian paramilitary force, despite having curfew passes.

Bilal Bhat, bureau chief of the Indian news channel, Sahara TV, says he and and his colleague were badly beaten.

"They simply told us to get out of the car and started beating us with gun butts with sticks," he said. "I got injuries in my chest, my lumbar, and one of my assistants [got a] fracture in his arm. Then two police personnel watching nearby came to our rescue and took us to a nearby hospital."

Tensions have escalated over the past two weeks, with a series of protests calling for an end to Indian rule in disputed Kashmir. Several separatist leaders have been detained or put under house arrest.

In some areas of Srinagar Sunday, Indian paramilitary forces threw rocks at houses, breaking windows.

Authorities banned local cable television channels from broadcasting news and current affairs programs, charging they included what one official called 'inflammatory content.'

Moderate separatist leader Shabir Shah said Muslim separatists would go ahead with the planned rally and march to Lal Chowk, in Srinagar, on Monday, despite the curfew.

"We appeal to people to march peacefully," he said.

Shah said security forces were intimidating people to prevent them from attending the rally.

In the past few months, Kashmir has seen some of the biggest pro-independence demonstrations since a separatist revolt against New Delhi's rule broke out in the region in 1989. The latest demonstrations grew out of protests by Kashmir Muslims against a controversial land transfer to a Hindu Shrine in June. The government later rescinded the transfer, which in turn stirred protests and communal tension in Hindu-dominated Jammu province.

Muslim and Hindu protests across the region have killed at least 34 people and wounded hundreds more.

India and Pakistan both claim divided Kashmir, and have fought two wars over it since the two nations split in 1947.

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