2 people killed as anti-India protests intensify in curfew-bound Kashmir; death toll hits 25

By Aijaz Hussain, AP
Sunday, August 1, 2010

Indian forces shoot dead 2 protesters in Kashmir

SRINAGAR, India — Two people were gunned down Sunday by security forces who opened fire on about 1,500 protesters who attacked them with rocks in increasingly violent Indian Kashmir, bringing the death toll from weeks of clashes to 25.

Demonstrators began hurling stones after government forces tried to prevent them from marching in the town of Pampore, a police officer said on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to talk with reporters.

Two people were shot dead and five wounded Saturday after police in two towns opened fire on protesters who attacked their camps and pelted them with rocks.

Hundreds of residents of Pampore and nearby villages joined the demonstrations Sunday and set government buildings and vehicles on fire after hearing about the shooting deaths of the two people, police and witnesses said.

The recent tension in the Himalayan region — divided between India and Pakistan and claimed by both — is reminiscent of the late 1980s, when protests against New Delhi’s rule sparked an armed conflict. More than 68,000 people have been killed, mostly civilians, in the conflict.

The mostly Muslim region, where resistance to rule by predominantly Hindu India is strong, has been under a rolling curfew and strikes after anti-India street protests and clashes surged.

The latest cycle of protests against Indian rule in the troubled region has left at least 24 dead — mostly teenagers and young men in their 20s — over the past six weeks.

Tens of thousands of police and paramilitary soldiers in riot gear patrolled deserted streets Sunday in Kashmir.

In Sringar, the main city in the Indian portion of Kashmir, troops laid razor wire and erected steel barricades on the streets. They announced over public address systems mounted on their vehicles that stern action would be taken against those violating the curfew.

However, groups of protesters came out on the streets in at least three neighborhoods in Srinagar, chanting “Go India! Go back” and “We want freedom.”

Police and soldiers responded by firing tear gas to disperse the protesters.

India and Pakistan have fought two wars over control of Kashmir since 1947. Both claim the region in entirety.

Separatist politicians and militants reject Indian sovereignty over Kashmir and want to carve out a separate homeland or merge with predominantly Muslim Pakistan.

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