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Kashmir unrest derails train services, fuel supplies

International Desk |
Update: 2010-08-03 22:13:07
Kashmir unrest derails train services, fuel supplies

NEW DELHI: Violent protests in Indian Kashmir have forced the suspension of train services and fuel supplies to the Muslim-majority region, officials said Wednesday.

Anand Sharma, president of the Jammu and Kashmir Tankers` Association, which supplies 2.4 million litres (634,000 gallons) of petroleum every day to the Kashmir Valley, said tanker convoys had been halted since Monday.

Sharma said the disrupted supplies included those meant for the Indian army along the heavily militarised border with arch-rival Pakistan.

At the same time, Indian Railways said it had suspended services in the Kashmir Valley that were hailed at their launch two years ago as a symbol of peace and prosperity in the region.

In both cases, the respective officials cited staff security concerns as the main reason for the disruption.

The Kashmir Valley has been rocked by violent anti-India protests on almost a daily basis since the death in early June of a teenage student -- killed by a police tear-gas shell.

More than 45 protesters have been killed -- most of them shot dead by police -- including 27 in the past week.

The protests have involved some assaults on police buildings, as well as an attack on a railway station in the town of Sopore.

"Service is totally disrupted since Sopore station was set on fire and it is too early to say when it could be restored because at present we cannot even assess the damage due to the security situation," said Additional Divisional Railways Manager R.S. Ghera.

Ghera said most of the 1,500 railways staff in the Kashmir Valley were reluctant to report for duty.

"We cannot force them to return to work unless the state government gives an assurance on their safety," he told AFP by telephone from Indian Railways regional headquarters in Ferozepur in Punjab state.

Around 100 railway staff and their families have already left the region, which has been under nearly constant curfew for the last two months.

The 120-kilometre (75-mile), 15-station train service links Baramulla town in the north of Indian Kashmir with Qazigund in the south.

It was personally flagged off in October 2008 by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who said it sent a message that Kashmir`s future "should be socially, economically and politically bright."

Tankers` association president Sharma said the normal traffic of 200 tankers a day to the valley had been halted since Monday "because the state authorities have failed to provide any form of security which leaves our tankers and drivers at the mercy of the mobs.

"The situation is terrible out there and 350 tankers are stranded in Srinagar with no one to unload them," he said by telephone from Jammu, Kashmir`s Hindu-majority winter capital.

A 20-year separatist insurgency in Indian Kashmir has claimed thousands of lives. The latest unrest is the most serious for two years.

BDST: 1935 HRS, August 04, 2010

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