Some Hindus to stop paying tax over Kashmir land row | india | Hindustan Times
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Some Hindus to stop paying tax over Kashmir land row

india Updated: Aug 21, 2008 17:04 IST
Ashok Pahalwan

Hindu leaders locked in a violent land row with Muslims in Indian Kashmir asked people on Thursday to stop paying government taxes, seeking to expand their street protests into a mass civil disobedience movement.

The row over whether some forest land should be given to a Hindu shrine trust has pitted Muslims in the Kashmir valley against Hindus in Jammu, the two main regions that make up the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.

The dispute began after the state government promised to give forest land to the Hindu trust that runs the cave shrine of Amarnath. Many Muslims were enraged, leading the state government to rescind its decision. That in turn angered Hindus in Jammu.

"We will not be henceforth paying VAT (value added tax), electric and water bills and passenger tax," said Leela Karan Sharma, a Hindu leader in Jammu.

The dispute has led to the biggest protests in Kashmir since a Muslim separatist rebellion broke out against Indian rule in 1989. It has also led to massive protests in Jammu, for decades a relatively quiet region, unaffected by the Kashmir insurgency.

On Thursday, hundreds of Hindus in Jammu chanting anti-government slogans came out on the streets and burned effigies of ruling politicians, blaming them for failing to resolve the crisis.

The crisis has had little impact in the rest of India, but on Thursday, thousands of Hindu activists marched through the streets of the eastern state of Orissa in support of Jammu protesters.

The row has posed a political dilemma for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh months before a general election due by May. The government must find a solution that does not alienate either Muslims or Hindus, both important voter constituencies.

Indian police have killed at least 22 Muslim protesters in Kashmir, where protests have been halted until Friday to allow people to stock up on rations.

In Hindu-majority Jammu, 10 people have been killed in protests since trouble began nearly two months ago, police said.