Indian Kashmir under curfew on anniversary of hanging

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 February, 2014, 5:53pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 February, 2014, 5:53pm

Most of Indian Kashmir was under curfew on Sunday to prevent protests to mark the first anniversary of the hanging of a local separatist, which fanned anger last year in the already tense region.

Shops and other businesses were shut and traffic was thin 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 for 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 ten people dead.

Guru always insisted he was innocent, while protesters in Kashmir have often accused the police of framing him.

Fearing the anniversary will reignite protests, authorities have shutdown 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 on condition of anonymity.

“We were told by patrolling police officers in the morning to remain inside,” Abdul Hafeez, a resident of Srinagar also said.

Political groups opposed to Indian rule in the Himalayan region have called for a three-day strike beginning on Sunday to press their demand for the return of Guru’s remains to his family.

Authorities have been criticised for failing to inform the family about the execution before he was sent to the gallows.

Groups have also demanded the return of the remains of Maqbool Bhat, a founder of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, from the same prison.

The February 11, 1984 anniversary of the hanging of Bhat is usually marked by attempts to organise large rallies and a general strike.

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 cracked down on separatists, detaining more than 200 activists from across the Kashmir valley, according to separatists and a police officer who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Most separatist leaders were detained in different police stations and the top ones restricted to their houses to prevent them from leading protest demonstrations, the officer said.