Indian Kashmir shut down by strike in protest at killing of civilians during militant gunfight

Supporters shout slogans from a police vehicle after they were detained during a protest in Kashmir on Feb 15, 2016.
Supporters shout slogans from a police vehicle after they were detained during a protest in Kashmir on Feb 15, 2016.PHOTO: EPA

SRINAGAR (AFP) - Indian Kashmir largely shut down on Monday (Feb 15) as a general strike was called to protest at the killing of two civilians during a gunbattle between troops and suspected separatist militants.

The authorities also imposed a curfew in parts of the region's main city of Srinagar, where hundreds of police and paramilitary troops patrolled deserted streets and erected checkpoints to halt any protests.

"No one is allowed to leave their home. There are soldiers everywhere," Mr Umar Ahmed, a student, told AFP by phone from his home in Srinagar's old quarter.

Businesses closed throughout the region after separatist leaders, placed under house arrest to prevent them from leading protests, called for a strike, while Kashmir University cancelled student exams.

The authorities also suspended train services in the region to stop protesters from gathering.

A female university student was killed on Sunday as troops cordoned off Kakpora village, 35km south of Srinagar, suspecting the presence of militants.

The police say she was caught in crossfire between troops and militants after stone-throwing villagers gathered in support of the rebels.

A teenage boy also died after being hit by a tear-gas canister.

Witnesses say soldiers fired on the protesters, killing the woman who was standing outside her home. Other protesters were taken to hospital with gunshot wounds, they say.

Militants fighting against Indian rule of the Himalayan territory have wide support among Kashmir's Muslim residents, who often gather on the streets to protest during rebel gunbattles with government forces.

Kashmir has been divided between rivals India and Pakistan since the two countries became independent in 1947. Both claim the territory in full.

Since 1989 several rebel groups have been fighting Indian soldiers deployed in the territory, demanding either independence or a merger of the region with Pakistan.

The fighting has left tens of thousands, mostly civilians, dead.