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India Releases Top Kashmir Separatists Before Ramadan


Muslim separatists in Indian Kashmir say they will continue protests calling for an end to Indian rule, even though rival Hindu groups have called an end to their demonstrations. Meanwhile, Indian authorities released three top Kashmiri separatist leaders who were arrested a week ago. Shahnawaz Khan reports for VOA from Srinagar, Indian Kasmir's summer capital.

Muslim leaders in Kashmir called for more protests a day after the government struck a deal with Hindu groups in Jammu province to allow Hindu pilgrims temporary use of land near a religious shrine. A dispute about the use of the land had sparked Muslim protests and Hindu counter demonstrations two months ago.

A coordination committee of Kashmiri Muslim separatists rejected the government deal with the Hindu groups, but called the issue unimportant. The committee said its goal is independence and they will continue their protests and pro-freedom demonstrations, despite what they described as brute force by Indian police and troops.

The committee says it will meet Tuesday to discuss future plans.

Indian authorities have also released three top Kashmiri Muslim separatist leaders. Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, and Muhammad Yasin Malik were released on the eve of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

They were arrested before a planned pro-independence rally in Srinagar a week ago in an effort to stop the demonstrations.

Syed Ali Geelani's personal aide, Peer Saifullah told VOA that Geelani's health condition is serious and he has been hospitalized.

He says Geelani is spitting blood with saliva. He appears physically very exhausted.

Some other arrested leaders, such as Shabir Shah, Ashraf Sehrai, and women separatist leader Asiya Andrabi have reportedly been held under the unpopular Public Safety Act, which allows a person to be detained for up to two years without a trial.

India and Pakistan each claim Jammu and Kashmir in full and control parts of the territory divided by a de-facto border. Muslim separatists have been fighting for the independence of Indian-administered Kashmir or for its merger with Pakistan since 1989.

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