At least 22 killed in protests over Kashmir leader’s death

Hundreds injured as large crowds clash with Indian riot police over Burhan Wani killing

 Kashmiri  protesters throw stones at Indian policemen during clashes in Srinagar sparked by  the death of Burhan Wani. Photograph: Farooq Khan/EPA

Kashmiri protesters throw stones at Indian policemen during clashes in Srinagar sparked by the death of Burhan Wani. Photograph: Farooq Khan/EPA

 

Indian authorities are struggling to contain protests by Kashmiris angry after 22 people were killed in demonstrations against the killing of a top anti-Indian rebel leader.

Youths defied a curfew to rally in the streets as paramilitary troops and police in riot gear patrolled villages and towns in Kashmir after the death of Burhan Wani.

Most shops and businesses were closed, and mobile phone and internet services have been suspended.

By noon on Monday, crowds ignored the clampdown and gathered in parts of the main city of Srinagar and other locations.

Protests erupted in the region on Saturday, a day after Indian troops killed Mr Wani, the young leader of Kashmir’s largest rebel group, Hizbul Mujahideen. The group has been fighting against Indian rule since the 1990s.

Mr Wani, who was in his early 20s, had become the face of Kashmir’s militancy, using social media to rally supporters and reach out to other youths like him who had grown up with hundreds of thousands of Indian armed forces deployed across the region.

Police Inspector-General Syed Javaid Mujtaba Gillani described Mr Wani’s killing as the biggest success against militants in recent years.

As news of his death spread, spontaneous protests erupted and crowds of angry youths gathered to throw rocks at Indian police and paramilitary soldiers.

Officials said that some police and paramilitary posts were attacked, and that some homes of pro-India politicians were burned.

At least 21 civilians and one policeman have died from wounds sustained in clashes throughout Saturday and Sunday, as officers used live ammunition, pellet guns and tear gas to try to break up the protests.

Most of those killed were men under the age of 26 from southern Kashmir, police said. In addition, more than 150 civilians and 100 government troops have been injured. At least 10 of the injured civilians are in serious condition.

In several areas in Srinagar, activists painted graffiti on iron shutters of shops and walls, deploring India and eulogising Wani. Messages that they wrote included “Burhan our hero” and “Burhan still in our hearts”.

Anti-India sentiment is strong throughout India’s portion of Kashmir, a region of 12 million people, about 70 per cent of whom are Muslim. Many resent the deployment of hundreds of thousands of Indian troops, and openly voice support for rebels who have been fighting to demand independence or a merger with neighbouring Pakistan.

Both India and Pakistan claim all of Kashmir as their own, while each administers a part of the mountainous region.

The two sides are divided by a heavily militarised line of control. Two of the three wars between the nuclear-armed rivals were fought over Kashmir, and India continues to accuse Pakistan of arming and training anti-Indian rebels – a charge Pakistan denies.

More than 68,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the subsequent Indian military crackdown.

Amid the protests, Indian officials indefinitely suspended an annual Hindu pilgrimage to a mountain cave that draws about half a million people each year. Authorities also postponed school and college examinations and suspended rail services.

– (AP)