Police clash with protesters in Indian Kashmir, killing one

Kashmiri villagers attend the funeral of Raja Bejum who was killed in clashes with security forces near Handwara on April 13, 2016
AFP

Srinagar (India) (AFP) – A protester was killed in Indian Kashmir Wednesday as angry residents clashed with police, a day after three people died when the army fired into a crowd of civilians incensed by the alleged molestation of a girl.

Local police superintendent Aijaz Ahmed said the young man died of injuries sustained when a tear gas canister hit his head during the unrest in the frontier town of Kupwara.

Authorities in the restive region had imposed a partial curfew after separatist leaders called for a general strike over Tuesday’s deaths of two civilian protesters and a woman working in a nearby field who was hit by a stray bullet.

The soldiers opened fire Tuesday when protesters stormed an army bunker and set it on fire in the northern town of Handwara.

“We imposed restrictions in the old town of Srinagar and in Handwara to prevent violence,” director general of police, K. Rajendra, told AFP.

But groups of residents took to the streets of Handwara after the woman was buried, throwing stones at police who responded with tear gas, an AFP photographer on the scene said.

The army has expressed regret over the shootings and ordered an inquiry, saying anyone found guilty would be “dealt with”.

But the incident has heightened tensions in the region, where many resent the large Indian troop presence and accuse some soldiers of rights abuses.

Handwara residents stormed the bunker on Tuesday after a soldier from the post was accused of assaulting a local girl as she tried to use a nearby public toilet, police and witnesses said.

Kashmir’s new Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti warned the shootings would have a “negative impact” on her government’s efforts to promote peace in the region.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan but each claim the region in full. They have fought two of their three wars over it.

Since 1989 a rebellion against Indian rule by about a dozen rebel groups — seeking independence or a merger of the territory with Pakistan — has left tens of thousands dead, mostly civilians.

Hundreds of thousands of Indian troops are deployed in the region, making it one of the world’s most militarised zones.

They enjoy immunity from prosecution in civilian courts unless specifically permitted by New Delhi.

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