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SRINAGAR, India – Most of Indian Kashmir was under curfew Sunday, Februart 9 to prevent protests marking the first anniversary of the hanging of a local separatist, which fueled anger last year in the already tense region.
Shops and other businesses were shut and traffic was light in the main city of Srinagar and other towns, as a result of the curfew and after separatist groups called a strike across the region to mark the anniversary.
Mohammed Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri Muslim, was executed on February 9 last year and buried inside a prison in Delhi after being convicted over a deadly raid on the Indian parliament in 2001 that left 10 people dead.
Guru always insisted he was innocent and protesters in Kashmir have often accused the police of framing him.
Fearing the anniversary will reignite protests, authorities have shut down mobile Internet services in major populated areas, and thousands of police and paramilitary forces were patrolling most roads, said a senior police officer, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity.
“We were told by patrolling police officers in the morning to remain inside,” Abdul Hafeez, a resident of Srinagar, also told AFP.
Political groups opposed to Indian rule in the Himalayan region have called for a 3-day strike beginning Sunday to press their demand for the return of Guru’s remains to his family.
Groups have also demanded the return of the remains of Maqbool Bhat, a founder of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), from the same prison.
The February 11, 1984 anniversary of the hanging of Bhat is usually marked by attempts to organize large rallies and a general strike.
Police detained JKLF leader Yasin Malik when he and a few dozen supporters defied restrictions and tried to stage a protest near the main square in Srinagar, said senior police superintendent Amit Kumar.
“He (Malik) has been taken into preventive custody,” Kumar said, adding that independent lawmaker Abdul Rashid was also briefly detained as he tried to lead a protest march elsewhere in Srinagar.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and claimed by both.
About a dozen rebel groups have been fighting Indian forces since 1989 for independence or for merger of the territory with Pakistan. The fighting has left tens of thousands, mostly civilians, dead.
Ahead of the anniversary of Guru’s execution, Indian police detained more than 200 activists from across the Kashmir valley, according to separatists and a police officer.
Most separatist leaders were detained in different police stations and the top ones restricted to their houses to prevent them from leading protests, the officer said on condition of anonymity. – Rappler.com