Pro-independence leaders in Indian-controlled Kashmir have waged a hunger strike against the government to protest New Delhi’s plan to build separate townships for Hindu migrants in the disputed Muslim majority region, Press TV reports.
On Saturday, Indian police arrested a top Kashmiri leader at the site of the hunger strike in Srinagar after the decision by New Delhi drew widespread condemnation from all quarters within the territory, with leaders describing the move as a conspiracy to turn Kashmir into another Palestine.
The arrest of Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) Chief Yasin Malik came shortly after he announced the 30-hour long hunger strike to protest the bid to establish the separate township for Pandits in the disputed valley.
“We oppose this separate colony system because we have bitter experience in Israel,” said Malik, pointing to the illegal building settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. He further insisted that Kashmiri Hindus are welcome to return and “live here with their Kashmiri Muslim brothers.”
He was also quoted by the local media as saying, “People who are living here have a tradition to live together in joint colonies in villages and towns. Since the last five-six years, more than 5,000 Kashmiri Pandits have come back and are living with Kashmiri Muslims in joint mohallas (neighborhoods).”
“We will not allow separate colonies for Kashmiri Pandits. We want them to stay with other communities,” Malik reiterated.
Hindu scholar Swami Agnivesh also participated in the protest event in Srinagar and vowed total support for Malik, saying, “I came here to express my fullest solidarity with Yasin Malik. Any type of dividing people’s hearts and minds ultimately gives rise to terrorism.”
Many of the minority Kashmiri Hindus fled the disputed valley after the outbreak of pro-independence struggle against India’s rule in Kashmir, a region known for a tradition of communal harmony.
While India blames pro-independence fighters for the exodus of the Hindus, the leaders accuse the government of forcing Hindus to leave the region.
Meanwhile, local observers believe the building of what they refer to as “Israeli-type colonies” will become a source of insecurity and hatred and give reason for many persecuted minorities such as Muslims, Sikhs and Christians to demand separate homelands.
The latest developments in the restive region came a day after another Kashmiri leader, Masarat Alam, was detained by Indian police for waving a Pakistani flag and chanting pro-Pakistan slogans at a rally where thousands welcomed Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani following his return from New Delhi.
Hurriyat leaders have also opposed the plan to build separate townships for Kashmiri Pandits and have called for a complete shutdown of the valley over the issue.
On Friday, at least 14 people were wounded after Indian police forces attacked protestors in Srinagar during a rally against the detention of Kashmiri leaders.
Source: Press TV