SRINAGAR, Indian-controlled Kashmir – Authorities Friday imposed strict restrictions and curfew to stop the separatist march in restive Indian-controlled Kashmir.
The restrictions were enforced by thousands of police and paramilitary men, who were seen deployed on roads in full riot gears carrying automatic rifles. These men blocked roads by laying down coils of concertina wires and steel barricades.
Clashes broke out at over two dozen places across the region after protesters defied restrictions and took to roads to stage anti-India demonstrations. Police and paramilitary troopers used shotguns to fire pellets and teargas to disperse protesters. Reports said at least 40 civilians were injured, some of them critically during the day-long clashes.
Friday’s lockdown was strengthened to disallow march to Aripanthan village of Budgam district, where four civilians were killed and 15 others wounded on Tuesday. Senior separatist leaders Syed Ali Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq were detained soon after they come out of their residences to lead the march. Authorities fear their participation in marches would mobilize huge crowds.
Authorities for the sixth consecutive Friday kept Jamia Masjid (grand mosque) in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian-controlled Kashmir, out of bounds for the general public. The government forces did not allowed Friday afternoon congregational prayers in the other central mosques also. Reports pouring in from other places said people offered prayers in smaller mosques and took out protest demonstrations at several places.
Large-scale protests against New Delhi’s rule are going on in the Muslim majority areas of the restive region since July 8. The protests broke out following the killing of a top militant commander of Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) Burhan Muzaffar Wani.
Despite prolonged curfew and restrictions to clampdown on protesters, clashes and protests seem to be intensifying on Friday. The death toll of civilians in the standoff has gone up to 62, besides injuries to thousands of civilians and hundreds of government forces personnel.
Anti-India sentiment runs deep in the psyche of majority of Kashmiris. Irate residents defying curfew and restrictions took to roads at several places and clashed with police. The youth threw stones and brickbats on contingents of police and paramilitary, who responded by firing tear smoke shells, pellets and bullets, which often proved fatal.
Meanwhile, Indian army has appealed for calm in the region.
“Cycle of conflict and violence has been going on for more than 40 days now and no one is going to get away from it unhurt,” a top Indian military commander, Lt Gen D S Hooda told reporters. “My appeal is for calm. We have to sit down, put our heads together and see if we can find a way out of this situation.”
The shutdown and restrictions have affected normal life in the region, with people complaining dearth of essentials and eatables. A shortage of medicines has been reported in the region.
On Thursday evening, an ambulance driver was wounded after a paramilitary trooper fired upon him. The ambulance was ferrying a patient through old part of Srinagar city.
Health officials said the driver managed to drive the ambulance to hospital, where he himself was later admitted.
A separatist movement and guerrilla war challenging New Delhi’s rule is going on in Indian-controlled Kashmir since 1989.
Prior to this, in 2010, a similar wave of violence hit the region and claimed over 100 lives during clashes that continued for months together.
Kashmir, the Himalayan region divided between India and Pakistan, is claimed by both in full. Since their Independence from Britain, the two countries have fought three wars, two exclusively over Kashmir.
The weeks of turbulence in Indian-controlled Kashmir has added a new confrontation in the already strained relations between the two countries.