Lawmakers, officials scuffle in Indian Kashmir’s parliament; 4 injured

By Aijaz Hussain, AP
Thursday, October 7, 2010

Lawmakers scuffle with officials in Indian Kashmir

SRINAGAR, India — The assembly in Indian-controlled Kashmir erupted in violence Thursday when opposition lawmakers scuffled with security guards to protest a suggestion that only a deal between India and Pakistan could bring peace to the region.

Three lawmakers from the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party were treated for bruises and cuts and one security marshal also suffered minor injuries.

The Muslim majority Kashmir region is divided between mainly Hindu India and mainly Muslim Pakistan and claimed by both countries in its entirety.

Since June, Indian-controlled Kashmir has been engulfed by street protests demanding independence or a merger with Pakistan. At least 108 people — mainly protesters and bystanders — have been killed in the subsequent crackdown by security forces.

To quell the violence, the Indian government has debated easing some harsh security laws in effect here, pulled down some security bunkers in the main city of Srinagar this week and discussed bringing economic development to the Himalayan region.

But Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, the region’s top elected official, told the assembly Wednesday that these measures would not solve the overall dispute over the region.

“Kashmir is an issue between two neighbors. It is an international issue … It is a political issue and cannot be addressed through development, employment or good governance,” he said, adding that Kashmiris also should be involved in the discussions on their future.

When the session started Thursday morning, angry BJP lawmakers, and legislators from two other local parties, chanting slogans against Omar, rushed the podium and fought against security marshals who were trying to push them back. The speaker later ordered them ejected.

The BJP declared it would boycott the remainder of the session ending this weekend in protest.

Meanwhile, authorities lifted a curfew in Srinagar and other important towns, but shops, businesses and most government offices were closed in the region because separatists had called a strike.

However, a round-the-clock curfew continued in the northern Palhalan village for the straight 25th day, said a police officer on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Since 1989, an armed uprising and an ensuing crackdown by Indian security forces have killed an estimated 68,000 people, mostly civilians, in Indian-controlled Kashmir. While that rebellion has been largely suppressed, the resistance is now principally through street demonstrations.

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