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Black flags mark India’s Independence Day in Kashmir

Srinagar, August 16, 2008:

People in Indian administered Kashmir hosted black flags across the Valley on Friday, August 15, to mark the Indian Independence Day as a ‘Black Day’.

The black flags were seen waving on electricity poles, cellphone towers, and rooftops in summer capital Srinagar and other major towns.

Kashmir’s main separatist alliance, Hurriyat Conference had called for hosting black flags and observing a black day, after Indian police and paramilitary troops killed around 30 unarmed Kashmiri Muslim protestors during the week.

A group of protestors assembled at the city centre and hosted green flags on the main clock tower, where paramilitary troops had hosted Indian tricolor in the morning to mark the Independence Day.

After armed insurgency broke out against Indian rule in Kashmir in late eighties, Indian independence and republic days are generally observed as shutdowns and marked with heavy deployment of troops.

Tensions have renewed in the region after Indian police and troops killed over 30 people who were taking part in different processions against an ‘economic blockade’ of the Muslim dominated Kashmir valley by rightwing Hindu groups of Jammu province.

Seven of the killed were taking part in a march to Pakistan administered Kashmir ‘Muzaffarabad Challo’ on Monday, called by fruit growers and Kashmiri separatists to protest the economic blockade and press for the demand for opening of Jehlum Valley Road, Kashmir’s traditional link with the world.

The Jhelum Valley Road that runs across the Line of Control in Kashmir is closed since 1947 when a war between India and Pakistan left the region divided between the two neighbours.

The land locked Kashmir Valley is since left with only one lifeline, the fair weather Srinagar-Jammu highway that goes on to connect it with north Indian state of Punjab.

Hindu groups in Jammu angry over the revocation of a forestland transfer to Amarnath shrine board by government after protests by Kashmiri Muslims have attacked Kashmir trucks on the highway to enforce an economic blockade of the region.

The land transfer controversy, which erupted first in June has polarised Jammu and Kashmir on religious and regional lines, with Muslim dominated Kashmir Valley pitted against Hindu dominated districts of Jammu province.

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