Kashmir tense as separatist leaders call for protest march

India-administered Kashmir was tense Saturday as a prominent separatist leader was arrested and the venue for a protest march in Srinagar city was sealed off by security forces.

Leaders of the Hurriyat Conference, a forum of separatist organizations, had called on people in the Jammu and Kashmir capital and in smaller towns and villages to hold a "referendum march" to Lal Chowk on Saturday and Sunday.

A referendum was promised to the people of the then princely state of Kashmir immediately after India obtained independence from British rule on whether they wanted to be a part of India, a part of Pakistan or independent. It was never held.

The authorities sealed off Lal Chowk with barbed wires and barricades and a curfew was tightened across South Kashmir, which has seen violent protests and police action since the July 9 killing of Burhan Wani, a commander of the militant Hiszbul Mujahideen group.

Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umer Farooq was arrested as he tried to go to Lal Chowk. "Authorities have imposed martial law in Kashmir and the rights of people to hold peaceful protests are being curbed," Farooq said before his arrest. 

Internet services to mobile phones and newspaper offices were blocked as the 6am to 6pm curfew entered its 36th day.

With another young man dying overnight, the death toll of civilians in the past month of clashes rose to 58.

At least 400 were still being treated for their injuries, most of them to the eyes from pellet guns being used by the police and troops as a new non-lethal weapon to control mobs.

More than 300 eye surgeries had been carried out at the city's main hospital, eye specialist Sabian Rashid said. "Many of these patients who were hit in the eye with pellets are 8 to 10 years old," Rashid said.

Last update: Sat, 13/08/2016 - 13:30

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