Kashmiri separatist leaders held, 12 injured in firing (Third Lead)

August 25th, 2008 - 1:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Srinagar, Aug 25 (IANS) At least 12 people were injured Monday when paramilitary forces opened fire on protesters after one of them fired a shot in Bandipora district of north Kashmir even as separatist leaders Muhammad Yasin Malik, Syed Ali Geelani and Mirwaiz Umer Farooq were detained here.A group of protesters Monday defied the curfew that had been imposed since 4 a.m. Sunday to begin a march in Hajin town, about 40 km from this summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir.

“As the police and the CRPF were warning the protesters to disperse peacefully, a pistol shot fired from within the mob hit a CRPF jawan (trooper), injuring him critically. The CRPF retaliated and 11 protesters were injured,” a police officer said.

All the injured have been sent to hospitals here. The situation in Hajin town is reported to be extremely tense and troops of the Rashtriya Rifles have been deployed to enforce the curfew.

Earlier in the day, Malik was arrested in the uptown Maisuma locality here as he came out leading around 50 supporters shouting pro-freedom slogans and started marching towards Lal Chowk, where the separatists had called a massive sit-in to internationalise the Kashmir dispute.

“We have arrested Malik and his supporters have peacefully dispersed after his arrest,” a police officer told IANS.

Geelani and the Mirwaiz were arrested from their homes in Hyderpora and Nigeen localities late Sunday to thwart the separatist march in which thousands were expected to take part Monday.

While Geelani has been removed from his home earlier too, it was the first time that Mirwaiz was whisked away from home to an unknown destination.

Before this, Mirwaiz, a moderate separatist leader, had been placed under house arrest several times.

“What you call the routine drill of keeping these gentlemen under house arrest where they freely received guests and visitors who would be shown in by armed guards provided by the government has been broken now,” an intelligence officer told IANS here.

Official sources said the decision to arrest the two leaders was taken Sunday at a high level security meeting chaired by Jammu and Kashmir Governor N.N. Vohra.

The separatists had put up a massive show of strength here Friday at the Eidgah grounds in the old city area where thousands offered prayers in response to a call by separatist leaders.

Meanwhile, the security of the Lakhanpur-Jammu-Srinagar highway has been handed over to the army, which will now remain deployed permanently on the over 400 km long stretch to ensure that it is not blockaded by protesters.

The present turmoil in the valley started against the allotment of 40 hectares of forest land to a Hindu shrine board that manages the annual pilgrimage to the Amarnath shrine in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district.

The land allotment was revoked later, triggering counter protests in the state’s Hindu-dominated Jammu region.

At least 40 people have been killed, mostly in firing by the police and paramilitary forces, in Jammu and Kashmir in almost three months of turmoil.

The unrest has turned into a mass separatist campaign in the valley, resurrecting demands for Kashmir’s secession from India.

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