Young man killed in new anti-India protests in Kashmir
A man has died and dozens more have been injured after government forces clashed with protesters in Kashmir who were demanding an end to Indian rule in the region.
Police said the clashes began after troops tried to stop thousands of people who defied a curfew in the southern town of Pulwama. He said the protesters hurled rocks at troops who fired shotguns and tear gas.
However, local residents said government troops swooped in on a neighbourhood in Pulwama early on Wednesday and vandalised a large tent shelter put up for a pro-freedom meeting and also beat up local volunteers.
A local resident, Yousuf Bhat, said the troops indiscriminately fired shotguns. He said youths retaliated later with rocks, triggering large clashes in the town.
Among the at least 30 injured, eight were rushed to a hospital in Kashmir's main city of Srinagar, where the young man died due to pellet injuries all over his body, police and doctors said.
Several protests against Indian rule were also reported from other areas in the region.
Also on Wednesday, Indian home minister Rajnath Singh arrived on a two-day visit to the restive region to discuss ways to defuse some of the largest protests in Kashmir against Indian rule in recent years. The protests were sparked by the killing of a popular rebel commander on July 8.
Kashmiri separatist leaders, most of them either under house arrest or in police detention, have vowed to continue their struggle and refused to participate in any dialogue before New Delhi accepts Kashmir as a disputed region, releases political prisoners, revokes harsh emergency laws and announces a plan for demilitarisation.
A strict curfew, a series of communication blackouts and an intensified crackdown since then have failed to stop more than six weeks of deadly protests against Indian rule. Residents have struggled to cope with shortages of food, medicine and other necessities.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and claimed by both. Most Kashmiris want an end to Indian rule and favour independence or a merger with Pakistan. More than 68,000 people have been killed since rebel groups began fighting Indian forces in 1989 and in the subsequent Indian military crackdown.