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Page last updated at 15:05 GMT, Thursday, 7 August 2008 16:05 UK

Kashmir strike as tensions rise

Policeman throws a stone at protesters in Srinagar
Tension is high on the streets of Srinagar

Muslims in Indian-administered Kashmir are on strike for a second successive day as tensions rise in a land row.

Shops in the Muslim-dominated Kashmir valley are shut and roads deserted.

Muslims are angry at Hindus reportedly attacking members of their community. There have been many rumours of such attacks but few are confirmed.

Hindus have protested for weeks since plans to transfer land to be used by Hindu pilgrims were scrapped. India's political leaders have called for calm.

At least 15 people have been killed and hundreds wounded in clashes with police since the unrest began in June.

On Thursday, security forces fired tear gas and used batons to disperse stone-throwing Muslim protesters at several points in the summer capital, Srinagar.

Calm shattered

The row started when the state government said it would grant 40 hectares of forest land to the Amarnath Shrine Board.

An injured protester in Jammu on 5 August 2008
Hindus are angry the land transfer plans were dropped

Muslims launched violent protests, saying the move was aimed at altering the demographic balance in the area.

The state government said the Amarnath Shrine Board needed the land to erect huts and toilets for visiting pilgrims.

But following days of protests, the government rescinded the order, leading to violent street protests by Hindu groups in Jammu.

Muslims in Srinagar now say their community is being targeted by Hindu protesters in the Jammu region.

They say Muslim lorry drivers have been assaulted and some houses of Muslims set on fire.

The BBC's Binoo Joshi in Jammu says that there have been a few stray incidents of Hindu mobs roughing up Muslim lorry drivers, but no widespread violence against Muslims in the south of the state.

She says police quickly brought the situation under control and are deployed in numbers to prevent similiar incidents recurring.

The BBC's Altaf Hussain in Srinagar says despite this Muslim drivers are refusing to travel on the road because they fear for their lives.

He says this has badly affected the fruit industry and produce worth millions of dollars has perished. Stocks of medicines are also reported to have run out in the valley.

And local newspapers are carrying advertisements about weddings being cancelled - the reason being a shortage of mutton.

The protests follow several years of relative calm in Indian-controlled Kashmir, where militants have spent a generation fighting Indian rule.


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