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16 killed in J&K violence
New Delhi, SepT 13 (IANS/PTI):
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Published on 14 Sep. 2010 1:03 AM IST
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Sixteen people were killed across the Kashmir Valley Monday during protests initially triggered by reports of the Quran being desecrated in the US on a day India’s top cabinet committee on security deferred a critical decision on the demand for withdrawing AFSPA.
Monday’s violence flared up after Iranian TV channel Press TV reported late Sunday that copies of the Quran had been burnt in the US. A pastor in Florida, US, had threatened to burn copies of the Quran on the anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks but later called off the plan.
The state government swung into action as protesters violated curfew -- it was the second consecutive day of 24X7 curfew in towns in the Valley -- in many parts of Srinagar.
North Kashmir’s Tangmarg town witnessed the worst violence as mobs torched a Christian missionary school, the office of the social welfare department and a police vehicle.
Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who rushed to Srinagar Monday from New Delhi, chaired a meeting of the cabinet and appealed for peace and harmony.
State police chief Kuldeep Khoda told reporters in Srinagar that the police had evidence that Hurriyat leaders had incited Monday’s violence.
A statement was handed over to reporters by Home Secretary G.K. Pillai after the CCS meeting at the prime minister’s official residence which stated: “The CCS is deeply distressed by the turn of events since Eid and specially the event that took place today following certain rumours. The CCS expresses its profound grief at the loss of life and offers its sincere condolences to the bereaved families.”
Trouble also spiralled in Punjab’s Muslim majority Malerkotla town where the property of a church was set on fire by a mob following rumours that the Quran has been burnt in Michigan, US.
Curfew was imposed Monday in the town, about 150 km from the state capital Chandigarh, after violence had erupted the night before. A mob had gathered and proceeded to the town’s only church, shouting slogans against the US government. The mob then set furniture of the church on fire before the police intervened.
Religious leaders from the Muslim and Christian communities met with district administration officials Monday and appealed to people to maintain calm. They said no heed should be paid to rumours about burning of the Quran in the US.
Tension also prevailed in Ludhiana as youths belonging to the Christian community took out a protest march from Isa Nagari and set afire truck tyres on the roads. The demonstrators were demanding immediate arrest of the culprits responsible for the Malerkotla incident.
Members belonging to the Muslim community gathered in Field Gunj Chowk where Shahi Imam of Punjab Maulana Habib-ur-Rehman addressed them. Shopkeepers downed their shutters in the area.
Deputy Commissioner Rahul Tewari and Police Commissioner Ishwar Singh maintained that situation was under control.
Meanwhile, US Ambassador Timothy J. Roemer appealed for calm, saying he was “dismayed” to see reports of a church and school in Kashmir and Punjab being attacked and destroyed by rioters.
“One misguided individual” had desecrated the Quran by tearing pages from it Saturday, Roemer said here, condemning such acts as “disrespectful, intolerant, divisive and un-representative of American values.”
No CCS decision on AFSPA
The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), which met here Monday to review the violence-hit situation in Kashmir and consider a peace package, did not take any decision on lifting the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from parts of Jammu and Kashmir, an official said.
The three-hour meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, decided to convene an all-party meeting on Wednesday to discuss the possible way out in the volatile Kashmir Valley, where 16 people were killed in police firing Monday. Totally, 86 people have died in the cycle of violence that erupted June 11. The meeting was attended by Defence Minister A.K. Antony, Home Minister P. Chidambaram , Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna.
(More on page 7)

 
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