India re-imposes curfew in Kashmir city

Published 8:45 am Friday, July 29, 2016

SRINAGAR, India — Authorities re-imposed a curfew to prevent a protest march to the main mosque in Indian-controlled Kashmir’s main city Friday, but fresh street demonstrations and clashes still occurred at more than two dozen places amid outrage over the killing of a top rebel leader earlier this month.

Army soldiers fired at protesters in a village in northern Kupwara district, injuring at least three teenage boys who attacked their camp with stones and tried to barge into it, police said.

At a nearby village, at least two youths were injured with pellets fired by government forces, a police officer said on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to talk to reporters.

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Residents said government forces visited homes in Srinagar before dawn Friday and asked them to stay indoors. One resident, Bashir Ahmed, said police didn’t allow bakers and milkmen to deliver supplies in the area.

Hundreds of men and women defied the curfew after Friday prayers and marched to a United Nations office on Kashmir and held a protest demonstration. They chanted “We want freedom. Go India, Go back.”

Police fired tear gas and used wooden batons to disperse the protesters. However, youths regrouped in streets later and clashed with the police, hurling rocks at them.

Doctors at the main hospital in Srinagar said they have treated at least 50 people for injuries, most of them caused by pellets, in the past three days.

Security forces apparently continued using pellet guns despite India’s Home Minister Rajnath Singh cautioning them to minimize the weapons’ use because of serious eye injuries to protesters, some of whom have been blinded.

The curfew, re-imposed after being lifted Thursday, had been in effect since July 9, the day after Burhan Wani was killed by government forces. Security forces also prevented people from praying in big mosques across the region, but did not interfere with those visiting small mosques in rural areas for Friday prayers.

Shops, businesses and schools remained closed as separatists asked people to hold strikes and street protests until Friday.

Key separatist leaders Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik had called for the protest march to the main Jamia Masjid mosque on Friday.

Geelani and Mirwaiz Farooq, who were put under house arrest, defied the restrictions and came out of their homes to march to the mosque. Police stopped them and took them away, a police officer said on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to talk to reporters.

Police have kept Malik in a lockup to prevent him from leading the protest.

Areas of southern Kashmir where most of the deadly street protests have been centered have remained under curfew. At least 49 civilians, mostly teenagers and young men, have been killed as government forces fired live ammunition and pellets. A policeman also died after protesters pushed his vehicle into a river.