Strike cripples Indian Kashmir

Chief minister warns protests denying an entire generation a proper education.

Afp September 06, 2011

SRINAGAR: A strike to demand the release of political prisoners shut down Indian Kashmir on Tuesday, as the chief minister warned that protests were denying an entire generation a proper education.

The two-day stoppage, called by groups opposed to Indian rule in the Muslim-majority region, closed businesses, schools and banks in the main city Srinagar and other towns.

"The strike is to demand the release of political prisoners who have been languishing in jails for years without any justification," said Ayaz Akbar, a spokesman for hardline leader Syed Ali Geelani.

Geelani, who favours the region's accession to Pakistan, has been under almost constant house arrest for the past year, with the authorities accusing him of seeking to incite violence.

In a statement on Tuesday, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said endless strikes and stoppages were having an irreversible impact on the education of young Kashmiris.

"It is the duty of all of us to keep education away from all conflicts, disturbances and politics to safeguard the future of the state," Abdullah said.

Losses on "development fronts can be retrieved but the gaps occurring in education remain unfilled for ever," he added.

The separatist-led strike coincided with a wage-related stoppage by government employees.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, but claimed in its entirety by both.

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