Clashes as Kashmir marks militant's death

Protesters face off with Indian police and paramilitary soldiers during clashes in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian-controlled Kashmir, yesterday. Troops were deployed in large numbers to disperse possible protests on the death anniversary of m
Protesters face off with Indian police and paramilitary soldiers during clashes in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian-controlled Kashmir, yesterday. Troops were deployed in large numbers to disperse possible protests on the death anniversary of militant Burhan Wani, who was killed in July last year.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Curfew imposed after separatist leaders call for a week of protests

SRINAGAR • Tensions soared in the disputed and volatile Himalayan region of Kashmir yesterday as it marked the anniversary of a hugely popular rebel leader's death.

Seven people were killed in cross-border shelling by both Pakistan and India, officials on both sides of the frontier said.

The violence occurred as protesters clashed with police in Indian-controlled Kashmir, where the authorities have imposed a widespread curfew and cut off all Internet services after separatist leaders called for a week of demonstrations.

Disputed Kashmir has seen an explosion of protests against Indian rule since government forces shot and killed militant Burhan Wani a year ago.

The death of the charismatic 23- year-old, who had built up a big following on social media, sparked an outpouring of grief and anger that spilled into the streets and led to months of clashes with security forces.

Nearly 100 people died in the months that followed and many more were seriously injured in the eye from the pellet guns used to quell the protests.

Separatist leaders - most of whom were either confined to their homes or detained in the run-up to the anniversary - had called for a week of protests from yesterday to mark Wani's death.

All roads leading to the rebel leader's hometown of Tral, in south Kashmir, have been closed and the authorities have seized thousands of motorbikes to prevent people travelling between villages.

Witnesses and the police said clashes broke out when protesters tried to reach their homes yesterday morning and were blocked by government forces.

The police fired tear gas canisters when protesters threw rocks at them - an increasingly common tactic in the region.

The anniversary comes at a time of heightened tensions along the Line of Control, the de facto border that divides the disputed Himalayan territory between India and Pakistan.

Kashmir, divided between India and Pakistan since 1947, is one of the most heavily militarised spots on earth with a long history of conflict. The mountainous region is home to dozens of armed groups fighting for independence or a merger with Pakistan.

But since Wani's death, civilians have played an increasingly active role in the rebellion against Indian rule.

In parts of south Kashmir - the epicentre of the renewed insurgency - villagers began intervening in anti-militant raids, throwing stones at government forces to create a distraction and give the rebels a chance to flee.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 09, 2017, with the headline 'Clashes as Kashmir marks militant's death'. Print Edition | Subscribe