Thousands of protesters in Indian-controlled Kashmir have taken to the
streets for the sixth consecutive day, angry over a proposed land
transfer to Hindus in what is a mostly Muslim region.
In Kashmir's main city of Srinagar t,
stone-throwing protesters clashed with police on Saturday, who fired tear gas to
disperse the crowds. At least 41 people were injured, including police
and a separatist leader Mohammad Yasin Malik of Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front.
Three people have been killed and hundreds wounded since the protests
began last week, forcing schools and offices to shut down. The
demonstrations are the largest the region has seen in years.
Protesters oppose the Indian government's plan to transfer about 40 hectares of land to a Hindu trust (Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board). The land is to be used to build housing for thousands of Hindu pilgrims who trek to the Amarnath shrine every year.
Kashmiri separatists say the land transfer is a conspiracy to change
the demography of the mainly-Muslim Himalayan valley. They fear the
land will be used to settle Indian Hindus in largely Muslim Kashmir.
A key party (People's Democratic Party) in Kashmir's ruling coalition today (Saturday) withdrew its support over the land transfer.
The chief minister of Jammu-Kashmir state Ghulam Nabi Azad has said construction at the disputed site will not begin until all political parties meet and reach a consensus.
Every year, devout Hindus trek to a cave 38-hundred meters above sea
level that holds an ice stalagmite revered as a symbol of the Hindu god
Lord Shiva. The pilgrimage route has been attacked frequently by Muslim
Islamic separatist groups have been fighting for Kashmir's independence
from India or its merger with Pakistan. Tens of thousands of people
have been killed in insurgency-related violence. India and Pakistan
each control separate portions of Kashmir, but both countries claim
sovereignty over the entire territory.