Protests and violence continued in the Kashmir Valley Monday with at least 12 people killed including a policeman. Rumours that copies of the holy book had been desecrated in the US fanned tensions.
A group of Kashmiri protesters
Kashmir was on edge as an indefinite curfew was clamped down on more parts of the valley on Monday following sporadic violence in several areas over the weekend and a protest march called by the separatists in the state.
Protestors against Koran desecration
In the fresh cycle of violence, pitched battles were fought between security forces and protesters in several parts of the state. The protests took a new turn with people taking to the streets following rumors that the Koran had been desecrated in the US.
Hundreds of villagers from densely populated rural areas in south Kashmir's Pulwama district took part in processions shouting pro-Koran and anti-America slogans.
Indian paramilitary soldiers patrol a deserted street
Angry crowds torched a Christian missionary school, the office of the social welfare department and a police vehicle. Defying a round-the-clock curfew imposed in the wake of widespread violence that followed the separatist march to the city centre of Lal Chowk, at Eid, tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets.
Officials appeal for calm
State chief secretary S. S. Kapur appealed for calm and described as "unfortunate" the arson attack on a Christian missionary school after passions were stirred in the wake of an alleged Iranian news channel's report. "Do not take the law into your own hands on this issue. We sympathize with you, we fully appreciate your sentiments. Sentiments are hurt, I can understand that. Religious sentiments are the most sensitive ones, we appreciate that and we have concern for it. Someone is doing it, allegedly doing it.. is something beyond us. I appeal to all of you spread the message and help us restore order."
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah in a fix
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah who has been visiting Delhi wants the Armed Forces Special Powers Act or AFSPA to be lifted in parts of his state - and has also asked for the act to be amended to make it more "humane". He met with Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Home Minister P Chidambaram and then flew back to Srinagar for a meeting with his cabinet.
The Act gives the security forces unrestricted access and the power to carry out their operations, once an area is declared disturbed. But there is a division in Manmohan Singh’s cabinet on this issue.
More violence a possibility
Kashmir has been rocked by a cycle of violence triggered by street protests since June 11 and retaliatory firing by security forces. The protests, the biggest since a separatist revolt against New Delhi broke out in Kashmir in 1989, have paralyzed the state. Most of those killed have been stone-throwing protesters, mainly teenagers, who have been shot by police.
Basheer Manzar, a keen Kashmir watcher says the killings could spark more violence: "The situation could be brought under control only if you stop the killings, if you could stop the deaths. But with every passing day you have new deaths and new deaths fuel new anger. You kill people and the next day you have more intensified agitation… as intense as it was on the first day it started."
The spiralling violence has raised fears that the situation could spin out of control. It all started on June 11 when a 17-year-old student died after being hit by a teargas canister. Since then there has been no respite and the deteriorating law and order situation could mark a new chapter in the ongoing conflict.
Author: Murali Krishnan, New Delhi
Editor: Grahame Lucas