Kashmir tries to defuse shrine riots by revoking deal

Officials in Indian-administered Kashmir have stepped in to try to defuse a row over the donation of government land to a Hindu shrine which triggered the biggest protests in the area for almost two decades.

The state government said it would revoke its decision to hand over almost 100 acres to build facilities for the hundreds of thousands of Hindu pilgrims who visit the Shri Amarnath shrine in the predominantly Muslim state.

It hopes the move will calm demonstrations that have raged across Kashmir for the past fortnight, leaving at least five people dead and hundreds injured.

However, while Muslims were pleased by the decision to cancel the donation, the about-face infuriated Hindus. Yesterday, police fired live ammunition at Hindu demonstrators in the city of Jammu, wounding at least three people.

Meanwhile, in Kashmir's main city of Srinagar, thousands of Muslim protesters marched to a mosque and chanted anti-Indian slogans. Police had tried to pre-empt the march by detaining five separatist leaders earlier in the day but they failed to prevent the rally from bringing the city to a standstill for a second consecutive day.

"A formal decision against alloting land to the trust was taken today," said Jugal Kishore, a Kashmiri state minister. "Facilities for the pilgrims visiting the shrine will be handled by the state government. The people of the state did not want the land to be given to the trust."

Riots began a fortnight ago when the government said it would give the forest land to the board which oversees the Shri Amarnath shrine. The holy site, about 80 miles from Srinagar, is set in a Himalayan cave 12,000ft above sea level and contains a large, phallus-shaped icicle said to represent Lord Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction and rebirth.

It is one of India's most important shrines, visited by huge numbers of pilgrims. There was concern last winter that the high number of visitors and perhaps global warming were causing the icicle to melt earlier than usual.

The government of Kashmir had intended to hand over state land to the shrine board so that it could build facilities for the pilgrims, who walk more than 10 miles. Now the government will provide those facilities.

The annual pilgrimage has always been controversial. Many Muslims argue that Indian officials use the religious event, which lasts for two months, as a political statement to bolster their claim over the Himalayan region, which is divided between Pakistan and India but claimed by both. The Indian government denies the claim, saying it has never sought to promote Hindu migration to Jammu and Kashmir state, as it is formally known.

Mirwaiz Omer Farooq, one of the five separatist leaders who was placed under house arrest yesterday, said police were prohibiting people's right to demonstrate. Mr Farooq, who heads the moderate wing of a separatist alliance, the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, said: "The government is trying to block people from holding protests."

Militant groups have been fighting for decades for independence for Kashmir or else its merger with Pakistan. About 68,000 people have died in the conflict.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Interactive / Mobile Developer

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - Midweight

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Front End Developer

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Front End Developer - Midweight / Senior

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Day In a Page

Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks