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Indian Police Out in Force on Republic Day

A policeman attends a ceremony to mark India's Republic Day celebrations in Srinagar, January 26, 2011.

A policeman attends a ceremony to mark India's Republic Day celebrations in Srinagar, January 26, 2011.

Indians celebrated Republic Day in peace Wednesday in Indian-controlled Kashmir, as police blocked Hindu nationalists and Muslim separatists from raising opposing flags in the troubled region.

Thousands of security forces clamped down on marchers from India's main opposition party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir state. The BJP had plans to hoist the Indian flag in a city square, a site of frequent anti-India protests.

The Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) planned to raise a party flag beside the Indian flag in response. JKLF leader Yasin Malik was arrested as he led a group of protesters on a march through the streets of Srinagar.

Officials imposed a curfew in the region on Wednesday to prevent clashes between the opposing groups.

Security was also especially tight in the Indian capital, New Delhi, where an annual military parade was held to celebrate Republic Day.

For days, Indian officials have been asking leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party to call off the rally due to fears of it prompting violent protests. More than 100 people have died over the past year in a wave of violence in the restive Kashmir valley.

Security forces have been blocking Hindu nationalists from entering Jammu and Kashmir state for days.

Authorities in India on Sunday began sealing all roads and entry points into the state, blocking thousands of Hindu nationalists from gathering in Srinagar on Republic Day.

BJP leaders said the march was aimed at promoting national unity in the region, which has faced a violent separatist insurgency against Indian rule. But Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the flag-raising promotes a "divisive agenda."

Anti-India sentiment runs deep in the disputed Muslim-majority region, and tens of thousands of people have been killed in separatist violence over the past 20 years.

India and Pakistan have fought two wars for control of Kashmir. A long-stalled peace process began in 2004.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.