Firing by government forces kills 1 anti-India protester in Kashmir

By Aijaz Hussain, AP
Friday, August 13, 2010

Police firing kills 1 protester in Indian Kashmir

SRINAGAR, India — Government forces fired at hundreds of anti-India protesters for defying a curfew in the Indian portion of Kashmir on Friday, killing a teenage student and injuring at least six others, police said.

The violence was the latest in two-month stretch of civil unrest that has left at least 52 people dead. Most of the victims have been shot by government forces in their clashes with rock-throwing demonstrators during protests against India’s rule over the predominantly Muslim Himalayan territory.

Friday’s firing occurred after the protesters threw stones at government forces, angered by their refusal to allow them to visit a village mosque for morning prayers on the first Friday after the start of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, resident Maqsood Ahmed said.

A teenage student was killed and at least six others wounded in the firing by government forces in Trehgam, a village north of Indian Kashmir’s main city Srinagar, a police officer said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters.

The protesters were later joined by thousands of residents from neighboring villages, leading to more clashes with government forces, officer said.

The situation in the volatile disputed region in recent week has been reminiscent of the late 1980s, when protests against New Delhi’s rule sparked an armed conflict that has so far killed more than 68,000 people, mostly civilians.

Anti-India sentiment runs deep in mostly Muslim Kashmir, divided between India and Pakistan but claimed by both in entirety. Separatists reject Indian sovereignty over Kashmir and want to form a separate country or merge with predominantly Muslim Pakistan.

On Friday, authorities did not impose a curfew in Srinagar after a key separatist leader and cleric, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, warned of a total defiance if worshippers were stopped from praying at the Jamia Masjid, the main mosque in the city.

The mosque has remained out of bound for people on Fridays for the past six weeks to avoid protests after the prayers.

“Government is now even interfering in our religious affairs and not allowing us to offer prayers at the Jamia Masjid. If this situation continues it is binding on Muslim clerics to call for a war on the state,” warned Farooq.

Meanwhile, shops, businesses and most government offices were closed in Srinagar on Friday and public transport stayed off the roads.

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