HELD SRINAGAR: Authorities in the Indian occupied Kashmir (IOK) on Saturday extended a strict curfew to most parts of the restive region as the Hurriyat leaders called for weekend protests against the Indian rule. Government troops in armored vehicles patrolled the streets to thwart any attempt by protesters in Srinagar to march to the city’s commercial center.
Despite the stringent curfew, protests erupted at about eight places in the city. At two places police and paramilitary soldiers fired tear gas and shotgun pellets to stop protesters pelting stones. At least 10 people, including six policemen, were injured in clashes across the region, said a police officer speaking on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to the media.
Separatist leaders who challenge India’s sovereignty over Kashmir urged Kashmiris to march to a historic square over the weekend to demand a referendum to decide the future of the region. Shops, businesses and schools were shut for the 36th straight day and authorities blocked most cell phone services and internet in an attempt to prevent demonstrators from mobilizing.
Kashmir has been under a security lock down and curfew since the killing of a popular rebel commander on July 8 sparked some of the largest protests against the Indian rule in recent years. At least 56 civilians and two policemen have been killed and more than 1,400 protesters have been arrested.
Kashmir is divided between arch rivals India and Pakistan but claimed by both in its entirety. India accuses Pakistan of arming and training Kashmiri rebels who have been fighting for independence or for a merger with Pakistan since 1989. Pakistan denies the charge saying it only provides moral and political support.
More than 68,000 people have been killed since rebel groups began fighting Indian forces in 1989 and in a subsequent Indian military crackdown.-Web Desk