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Death Toll Rises as Protests Continue in Kashmir


At least 13 people have died as Indian security forces opened fire on protests led by Muslim separatists in Indian-controlled Kashmir. Shahnawaz Khan reports for VOA from Srinagar that police killed four people Monday who were trying to lead a march to Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-controlled territory.

At least three of the protesters were shot in the town of Bandipora, located about 60 kilometers north of Kashmir's summer capital of Srinagar. The other protesters were killed at separate demonstrations near Srinagar and in Kishtwar District.

The demonstrations were held despite a curfew imposed Monday, after Kashmiri separatist leader Sheikh Aziz and three other people were shot and killed by Indian forces trying to stop thousands of Muslim protesters from marching to the Pakistan-controlled part of Kashmir.

Kashmiri separatist leaders held the march to protest what they say is an economic blockade by Hindu extremists in the Himalayan region.

Hindu protesters have blocked a major highway leading to the Muslim-dominated Kashmir Valley, disrupting the flow of supplies to the region. The fruit industry, in particular, has taken a big hit.

"By this economic blockade they have completely finished the apple industry at least for this year. Because our crop was ready and it came back," said Mubeen Shah is the President of Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The Hindus are demanding that the government re-instate a land transfer to a Hindu shrine. The government recently backed off the plan after Muslims held violent protests against what they termed "Hindu colonization."

Kashmir is divided between Pakistan and India, and claimed by both. Muslim separatists have been fighting for Kashmir's independence from India or for the region's merger with Pakistan.