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Protest against Indian rule shuts down Kashmir

Protest against Indian rule shuts down Kashmir

Shops, businesses and government offices closed across Indian-administered Kashmir on Monday as separatists called a general strike to mark the anniversary of the day Indian troops took control of the region in 1947.
Thousands of Indian soldiers in riot gear patrolled the streets of Srinagar, the main city, and prohibited any gathering of more than five people, said senior police officer B. Srinivas.
The ban was aimed at blocking a plan by Kashmiri lawyers to form a human chain to protest the presence of Indian troops in the region.
"It's an irony that even forming a human chain is a threat to the Indian state," said Mirwaiz Omer Farooq, a key separatist leader. "This was supposed to be a symbolic protest reminding the world that India has militarily occupied this place."
In recent months, Indian Kashmir has seen some of the largest protests against Indian rule in two decades. At least 48 people have died, most of them killed when Indian soldiers opened fire on Muslim demonstrators.
India says it sent troops to the region in 1947 at the request of Kashmir's Hindu king, who decided to join India when the subcontinent was partitioned by British colonialists into India and Pakistan.
However, separatists say the Hindu king decided to join India only after Indian troops had landed in the region.
Monday's strike was called by the Jammu-Kashmir Coordination Committee, a coalition of Muslim separatist leaders and representatives of businesses, lawyers and government employees. They demand Muslim-majority Kashmir's independence from India or its merger with Pakistan.
Anti-India sentiment runs deep in Kashmir, which remains divided between India and Pakistan. The longtime rivals both claim the region and have fought two wars over its control.
Militant separatist groups have been fighting Indian forces since 1989 to end Indian rule. More than 68,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the uprising and subsequent Indian crackdown.