Police have arrested three key separatist leaders in Indian Kashmir under a tough security law that allows detention for up to two years without trial.
The arrests triggered weekend clashes with hundreds of Muslim protesters, with police and paramilitary soldiers firing tear gas and swinging batons to disperse the rock-throwing mob. There were no immediate reports of injuries.
The separatist leaders were arrested for opposing elections due to start later this month to choose a new government in the Indian-administered region, a police officer said.
The separatists oppose Indian rule in the Muslim-majority region.
They were arrested under the Public Safety Act, which allows police to detain people for up to two years without trial. Human rights activists condemn the law as draconian.
Police had held the separatist leaders under house arrest for several weeks following earlier protests against Indian rule.
As news of the separatist leaders’ arrests spread in Srinagar, the region’s largest city, hundreds of Kashmiris took to the streets chanting “We want freedom” and “Release our leaders”.
“An anti-election campaign is a democratic right and our arrest yet again proves as sham the tall claims of India’s democracy,” Mr Malik told reporters as he was being taken to prison. In recent months, the Himalayan region has seen some of its largest protests against Indian rule in two decades. At least 48 people have died in the unrest, most of them killed when Indian soldiers opened fire on Muslim demonstrators.