SRINAGAR (India) • Thousands of angry demonstrators defied a curfew yesterday in Indian Kashmir to attend the funeral of a schoolboy whose body had been found riddled with pellets, sparking clashes with security forces across the restive region.
The body of the 11-year-old was found late last Friday on the outskirts of Srinagar city in Harwan, after security forces used pellet guns to break up protesting crowds, even though the government had vowed to replace the weapons.
Kashmir has seen months of violent protests over the killing of a young militant by Indian soldiers.
Government forces fired tear-gas shells last Saturday to disperse stone-throwing protesters, triggering more clashes in at least half a dozen places across Srinagar and parts of the Himalayan valley.
"Forces responded when large crowds defied restrictions. Many were injured on both sides during the clashes that followed," a local police officer said on condition of anonymity.
Another police official said nearly 100 people, mostly protesters, were injured in the latest protests.
The killing of the schoolboy took the death toll to 81 in the worst violence to hit the Muslim-majority territory since 2010.
The government has been coming under growing pressure over the level of casualties in Kashmir during protests against Indian rule, which broke out after the death of a popular rebel leader on July 8 in a gunbattle with soldiers.
Most died in clashes between protesters and government forces, which fired tear gas and pellet guns at demonstrators.
India's home minister said police and troops would use chilli-based shells instead of ones filled with birdshot after hundreds of civilians sustained serious eye injuries during the clashes.
Metal pellets or birdshot fired from pump-action shotguns rarely result in deaths, but can often blind victims if they are hit in the eyes by the fragments.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the two gained independence from British rule in 1947. Both claim the territory in full.