Kashmir protesters seek remains of hanged leader
Sun 11 Feb 2007 9:12:58 GMT

SRINAGAR, India, Feb 11 (Reuters) - Indian police detained more than two dozen Kashmiri activists on Sunday demanding the remains of a separatist, hanged and buried in a New Delhi jail 23 years ago, during a demonstration to mark his death anniversary.

Mohammad Maqbool Bhat, founder of Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), a prominent separatist group, was executed on February 11, 1984 on the charge of killing an Indian intelligence officer.

"Hand over the remains of the father of nation, Shaheed (martyr) Maqbool Bhat to Kashmiris," read a banner carried by protesters led by senior JKLF activists in Srinagar, Kashmir's summer capital.

"We want freedom ... return the mortal remains of Maqbool Bhat," shouted the protesters, many carrying photographs of their leader.

Five years after Bhat's execution, militants launched an armed revolt against Indian rule in the Muslim-majority Kashmir region.

Officials say more than 40,000 have been killed since then. But human right groups put the toll at around 60,000 dead or missing.

JKLF, which declared a ceasefire in 1994 against Indian security forces, says it leads a political struggle for Kashmir's complete independence both from India and Pakistan, who claim the region in full but rule in parts.

JKLF called a strike in Kashmir on Sunday to mark Bhat's execution.

Some protestors threw stones at police who fired tear gas shells in response.

"The clash continued for an hour, no one was injured," Ali Mohammad, a police official said. "We have detained JKLF activists for precautionary measures."

Kashmir has witnessed widespread protests in the past two weeks over allegations policemen had killed innocent civilians in staged gun battles and passed them off as militants to claim rewards.