Indian troops open fire on protesters in Kashmir, killing one person and wounding 30

By Aijaz Hussain, AP
Monday, August 2, 2010

Troops fire on Kashmir protests; 1 killed, 30 hurt

SRINAGAR, India — Government troops fired into crowds of protesters Monday as thousands of Kashmiris demonstrated their rejection of Indian rule over the predominantly Muslim region, police said. One person was killed and more than 30 wounded in the clashes.

The top elected official in Kashmir, Omar Abdullah, was in New Delhi and met with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Home Minister P. Chidambaram and Defense Minister A.K. Antony to discuss defusing the unrest that has caused 34 deaths over seven weeks.

“The need is to end the cycle of violence. Some semblance of normalcy has to be a precursor for any political initiative,” Abdullah told reporters.

The recent tension in the Himalayan region — divided between India and Pakistan and claimed by both — is reminiscent of the late 1980s, when protests against New Delhi’s rule sparked an armed conflict that has since claimed 68,000 lives, mostly civilians.

Kashmiri Muslims have held massive street protests, attacked security camps with rocks and burned police stations. Government forces have responded by using live ammunition and tear gas to break the protests against Indian rule.

Clashes erupted again Monday in dozens of places across the region, as protesters defied a round-the-clock curfew.

Government forces fired on thousands of protesters holding street protests in the southern town of Kakpora, killing one and wounding five, a police officer said on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to talk to reporters.

In the northern village of Kralpora, protesters set a security bunker on fire and ransacked a counterinsurgency police force camp, the officer said. Troops opened fire, injuring eight protesters, three critically, he said.

Protesters also burned a government building and a local intelligence office in Budgam, a town to the west of Srinagar, the region’s main city. Four protesters were wounded there, the officer said.

The other woundings occurred in clashes throughout the region, the officer said.

In Srinagar, troops announced over public address systems mounted on their vehicles that stern action would be taken against those violating the curfew.

However, hundreds of protesters came out on the streets in several neighborhoods, chanting “Go India! Go back” and “We want freedom.” Troops fired warning shots and tear gas to disperse the protesters, the police officer said.

Abdullah, in New Delhi, described the situation in the Kashmir valley as worrisome and said that “some anti-social elements are hellbent to foment trouble, mayhem and bloodshed in the valley to satiate their political designs.”

On Sunday, he appealed to people of all shades of opinion, the media and religious heads to join the government in stopping the bloodshed, adding that he and his government cannot do it alone.

Last week, local authorities asked two retired judges to investigate the deaths of protesters, but the move has failed to calm the anger in the Kashmir region, where resistance to rule by predominantly Hindu India is strong.

India and Pakistan have fought two wars over Kashmir since 1947. Both claim the region in entirety.

Separatist politicians and militants reject Indian sovereignty over Kashmir and want to carve out a separate homeland or merge with predominantly Muslim Pakistan.

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