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Kashmir placed under indefinite curfew

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  • Indian authorities in Kashmir place region under indefinite curfew
  • Move aimed at scuttling a planned pro-independence rally
  • 40 people have been killed and hundreds wounded in recent clashes
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SRINAGAR, Indian-controlled Kashmir (CNN) -- Indian authorities in Kashmir placed the Himalayan region in an around-the-clock indefinite curfew early Sunday to scuttle a planned pro-independence rally.

There have been regular clashes between Kashmiri people and Indian troops recently.

An Indian paramilitary troop stands guard as part of curfew enforcement in Srinagar.

Separatist groups had planned a march to the city center Lal Chowk, or Red Square, on Monday to oppose Indian rule in the Muslim-majority region.

Thousands of police and paramilitary troops in riot gear descended on the region before dawn Sunday, shutting down roads and putting up barbed wire to barricade Lal Chowk.

Troops with megaphones drove through cities, repeatedly urging people to stay indoors.

"Curfew is imposed in your area. Don't try to step out of your home," they announced.

Authorities also took into custody a pro-separatist leader, Yasin Malik of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF).

Kashmir has been a source of bitter dispute between neighbors India and Pakistan ever since Britain left the subcontinent and partitioned the region into two nations in 1947.

Under terms that the two countries agreed to at the time, Kashmir's rulers could either opt to merge with India or Pakistan or remain independent.

Kashmir's ruler, Hari Singh, sided with India, where most people are Hindu. That caused controversy among Kashmir's Muslim majority. Many of them wanted to align with Pakistan, where Islam is the dominant religion.

Since then, the Kashmir issue has been the leading cause of conflict and two wars between India and Pakistan.

For the past 18 years, Kashmir has been wracked by a bloody separatist campaign. Authorities say up to 43,000 people have died, but some human rights groups and non-governmental organizations put the death toll at twice that.

The recent troubles began after the state government announced a plan in June to donate land to a Hindu shrine. The decision led to massive protests by Muslims and prompted the government to reverse it.

Then, Hindus took to the streets in Jammu demanding it be restored.

Violence broke out, with more than 40 people killed and hundreds wounded in police-protester clashes.

On September 25, Indian authorities arrested more than a dozen pro-separatist leaders and imposed a nine-day curfew to thwart a rally.

After that, demonstrations subsided while Muslims observed Ramadan, their holy month of fasting. They had planned to rekindle their movement with Monday's rally.

Journalist Mukhtar Ahmed contributed to this report.

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