Government officials in Indian Kashmir have reversed their
controversial decision to transfer land to a Hindu religious trust,
after nine days of violent protests in the majority-Muslim region left
at least five people dead.
Members of the Jammu-Kashmir state cabinet formally canceled the
transfer of 40 hectares of land to Hindu pilgrims during a meeting in
The government move was aimed at cooling tensions. But Muslims
activists, who say the land transfer was a conspiracy to change the
region's demographics, continued to demonstrate in Srinagar.
Hindu nationalists in Jammu, a predominantly Hindu city, accused state
leaders of betrayal and clashed with police, forcing shops, businesses
and schools to close for a second day.
India's main opposition, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party,
vowed to continue protesting in the region and warned that the protests
could spread nationally.
The state's decision came as authorities placed several top separatist leaders under house arrest to deter further protests.
The Himalayan region is special to Indian Hindus because it houses a
cave holding a massive ice stalagmite revered as a symbol of the Hindu
god Lord Shiva.
Thousands of Hindu pilgrims trek to the Amarnath shrine every year and
the pilgrimage route has been attacked frequently by Muslim separatists.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, but claimed in full by
both. Islamic separatist groups have been fighting for independence
from India or a merger with Pakistan since 1989.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed in insurgency-related violence.