Pakistan

Protesters burn Indian flag in Azad Kashmir

MUZAFFARBAD: Hundreds of people in Pakistani Kashmir burnt India’s flag and an effigy of its prime minister Sunday in protest at a crackdown on separatists in the Indian sector of the divided region.

Refugees from Indian-ruled Kashmir rallied under the banner of “Pasban-e-Hurriyat” (Protectors of Freedom) in Muzaffarabad, the capital of the Pakistani sector.

Many children also took part, displaying placards reading: “Go India Go back (from Kashmir)” and “Release Kashmiri leaders”.

Police in the Indian sector shot dead a 16-year-old boy on Saturday during a demonstration on the outskirts of its main city Srinagar, as a separatist strike shut down the Himalayan region on a second day of violent clashes.

Indian Kashmir has been rocked by violent protests for the past week after the brother of a top rebel leader was killed by the army near the town of Tral in the south of the Kashmir valley.

Shops, businesses and schools remained shut on Saturday across several towns in the state in response to a strike led by top separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani against what he called “state terrorism” and “poisonous propaganda” by Indian media.

Authorities have put all top separatist leaders under house arrest to prevent them from leading protests.

On Friday 30 people, mainly police officers, were injured as pro-Pakistan demonstrators in Srinagar set fire to an Indian flag and hurled rocks at them during a protest at the arrest of another separatist leader.

Masarat Alam Bhat was detained early Friday, two days after he chanted pro-Pakistan slogans at a peaceful separatist rally.

Bhat rose to prominence in 2010 when he organised a series of mass protests before being detained without charge for four years under controversial public safety legislation.

Anti-India sentiment runs deep across Kashmir, a picturesque Himalayan region that is India’s only Muslim-majority state.

The Kashmir region has been divided between India and Pakistan since the two countries gained independence in 1947. Both claim it in its entirety.

Although several rebel groups have been fighting Indian forces since 1989 for independence or  merger with Pakistan, street protests have become the main mode of opposition to Indian rule.

Deadly violence has declined steadily during the last decade but armed encounters between rebels and government forces still occur regularly. – AFP

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