Curfew reimposed in parts of Indian Kashmir
SRINAGAR, India (AP) – Security forces fired tear gas and used batons to disperse hundreds of rock-throwing demonstrators, leading authorities to reimpose a curfew in parts of Indian-controlled Kashmir. No injuries were immediately reported.
The tension in the Himalayan region – divided between India and Pakistan – was reminiscent of the late 1980s, when protests against Indian rule sparked an armed conflict that eventually killed more than 68,000 people, mostly civilians.
New clashes broke out Saturday between anti-India protesters and government forces in three different areas of Srinagar, the region’s main city, a police officer said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
As part of a new clampdown, thousands of troops patrolled Srinagar’s nearly deserted streets and most shops and businesses remained closed. The region’s nearly 60 newspapers were unable to publish for a third day.
“We’re monitoring the situation closely and will make further decisions accordingly,” said Farooq Ahmed, a senior police officer.
The government sent in the army to quell the protests last week. The Indian army had not been used for crowd control since major street demonstrations two decades ago.
Residents say security forces have killed 15 people in recent rallies. Thousands of people carrying black and green protest flags chanted “Indian forces leave Kashmir” as they marched peacefully through the streets.
“Our civil disobedience and peaceful marches will continue until India withdraws its military and paramilitary soldiers from populated areas,” said Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, a key separatist leader who led the march.
The tight curfew, initially introduced Wednesday, was lifted late Friday across the Indian-administered region for 24 hours to allow residents to celebrate a Muslim festival. Taking advantage of the brief reprieve, people swarmed grocery shops to buy food and other essentials.
Only about 1,000 devotees visited the revered Dargah Hazratbal shrine to offer prayers at the annual Miraj-un-Nabi festival, which commemorates Prophet Muhammad’s night journey to the heavens. In past years, tens of thousands of Muslims thronged the shrine.
Police laid razor wire and erected steel barricades around the shrine to stop any protests.
India and Pakistan have fought two wars over Kashmir. India regularly accuses Pakistan of sending insurgents over the heavily militarized frontier to stir up trouble and has blamed the current protests on Pakistan-based militants bent on destabilizing India, a charge Islamabad denies.
Kashmiri separatists are demanding independence from Hindu-majority India or a merger with Muslim-majority Pakistan.