Protesters rally in Indian Kashmir despite government plea
Tue, Aug 03, 2010
SRINAGAR, India - Thousands of protesters in Indian Kashmir on Tuesday held rallies and threw stones at police in defiance of a plea by the region's chief minister for deadly violence to end.
Forty people have died in weeks of unrest - most of them killed by security forces trying to disperse angry protests against Indian rule. Each death has triggered further violent demonstrations and security crackdowns.
Police said the latest victim was a young man killed on Tuesday when security forces opened fire to quell demonstrators in Srinagar, the region's main town.
In Ompora village, outside Srinagar, two people were also critically injured.
Omar Abdullah, Indian Kashmir's chief minister, held crisis talks in New Delhi with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday and appealed for restraint as the Muslim-majority region endures its worst bout of unrest for two years.
"Tragically, we have locked ourselves into a cycle of violence where protest leads to death, leading to further protests and further casualties," Abdullah told reporters. "We have to break the cycle."
The death in early June of a 17-year-old student - killed by a police tear gas shell - set off a series of almost daily protests in which 40 people have been killed.
Abdullah asked the central government to provide more paramilitary troops to try to enforce curfew orders that protesters have repeatedly ignored.
But some pro-India politicians warned against security reinforcements.
"Calling in more troops in a highly militarised place to terrorise the protesting people would further deteriorate the situation," Mehbooba Mufti, the leader of main opposition People's Democratic Party, said.
"The totally bankrupt approach in handling the present situation will only add to anger and alienation of the people," she said.
Tuesday's death again brought huge crowds onto the streets of Srinagar as the dead man's body was carried on a stretcher through people chanting anti-India slogans.
Media teams carrying curfew passes were prevented from covering the procession when paramilitary forces fired warning shots in the air, an AFP photographer said.
The 20-year separatist insurgency in Indian Kashmir has claimed thousands of lives.
India and Pakistan each hold part of Kashmir but claim it in full. The nuclear-armed neighbours have fought two wars over the region since independence in 1947.
Indian officials say Pakistan-backed hardline separatists are behind the latest unrest, but locals say it is the spontaneous result of years of pent-up frustration and alleged abuses by police and paramilitary forces.
Decades of on-off political dialogue about the status of the disputed territory have made no tangible progress, and unemployment is running high, especially among young people.
Abdullah acknowledged there was a sense of "alienation" among Kashmiris and said that political action was needed to find a permanent solution.
Police say they have opened fire only after coming under attack, and after first trying to disperse the crowds with baton charges and tear gas.