Violating a strict curfew, Kashmiri protesters have been out in the streets.
Demonstrators in Kashmir have thrown stones at Indian police officers who have responded by firing tear gas and shots into the air, during a strict curfew imposed after deadly protests. The clashes on Tuesday in Baramulla, north of Indian Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar, came a day after violence that led to the deaths of 19 people.
Three protesters were wounded on Tuesday, according to a police officer speaking on condition of anonymity to the Associated Press news agency. Another two demonstrators were injured in a village close to Srinagar when police fired shots at them, the officer said. The shooting sparked further clashes. Thousands of police have been stationed in the region to prevent further violence, while all fights to Srinagar have been suspended.
Monday’s protests were held against Indian rule and reports of Quran burning. It was the most deadly day of violence since mass demonstrations began three months ago, state police said. Despite the curfew, tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets on Monday, throwing rocks, torching government buildings and chanting “Go India, go back. We want freedom.”
Security forces shot live ammunition at some of the crowds, killing people in at least five different villages, a police officer said. In the village of Tangmarg, troops fired at thousands of rock-throwing demonstrators, killing five people and wounding at least 50 others, the police officer said. Earlier, protesters burned at least four government buildings as well as a schoolhouse in the town.
In Budgam, troops tried to disperse demonstrators with tear gas and baton charges but began firing into the crowd after protesters attacked a police station and the government forces with rocks, the police officer said. At least four people including a young woman were killed and at least 30 others were wounded, some critically.
A policeman was also killed during the protests in Budgam after he was hit by a vehicle that then sped away, the officer said. At least four other protesters were killed in three other towns, he said.
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, the main separatist leader, told Al Jazeera there is no room for political protest in Kashmir. “I have been under house arrest since Eid, many of my party have been arrested,” Farooq said. “In many places the protests are very peaceful … [but Indian] troops are firing indiscriminately [at protesters].”
Monday’s toll included at least seven people killed in police clashes after thousands of Muslim protesters set fire to a Christian missionary school and government buildings in two Kashmiri districts to denounce reports on the Iranian state-run channel, Press TV, that copies of the Quran had been damaged in the US over the weekend.
Though a Florida pastor called off his plans to burn the Muslim holy book, the channel showed footage of a different man destroying a Quran. The protesters chanted “Down with Quran desecraters,” and protest leaders denounced the alleged desecration in speeches to the crowds. The death toll was the highest since separatist protests broke out in June against Indian rule in the northern state.
In a statement at the end of a special cabinet meeting on Kashmir, on Monday, the Indian government said it was “deeply distressed by the turn of events” and appealed for calm.
However, it decided against heeding calls from some in the government to partially lift a 20-year-old army emergency law, that gives sweeping powers to security forces in Kashmir. The government offered to take part in talks with all peaceful groups in Kashmir, which would cover the “trust deficit and the governance deficit”.
It also called an all-party meeting for Wednesday in New Delhi “to take certain initiatives and measures that will build confidence of people.” Saeed Naqvi, a political commentator based in New Delhi, told Al Jazeera that Delhi has been preoccupied with other problems and ignored the Kashmir issue.
“There is a trust deficit [between India and Kashmir] and it has been addressed by inaction, unimaginative policy, even absence of policy, on the part of New Delhi,” he said. “There is angst and anger [in Kashmir]. After three months of bloodshed and agitation … [the struggle] has acquired an intensity and velocity. All they had to do was tone down the profile of the army.
“Nobody likes a foreign army and the Indian army looks like a foreign army to them.”