SRINAGAR: Government troops fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse Muslim protesters throwing rocks and chanting anti-India slogans in Kashmir’s main city on Saturday. Several people were injured in the clash, police said. Hundreds of angry protesters spilled onto the streets in Srinagar’s Nowhatta district to demand an end to Indian rule in the disputed Himalayan region, said Prabhakar Tripathi, a spokesman for the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force.
Some protesters threw rocks at troops who were trying to disperse the rowdy crowd, and the forces retaliated with tear gas and rubber bullets, Tripathi said. He said several protesters and troops were injured but was unable to say how many. Meanwhile, a separatist-called general strike Saturday paralyzed life across much of Indian-controlled Kashmir, closing down shops, businesses and schools.
The strike was called by the Jammu-Kashmir Coordination Committee, which includes Muslim separatist leaders and representatives of businesses, lawyers and government employees. Anti-India sentiment runs deep in Indian-administered Kashmir, where most people favor independence from mainly Hindu India, or a merger with predominantly Muslim Pakistan.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, which have fought two of their three wars over the region. In recent months, the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir has seen some of the largest protests against Indian rule in two decades. Although they had subsided in recent weeks, separatist leaders have launched new protests during the current Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Mirwaiz Omer Farooq, a key separatist leader, said government troops have been using force to quell popular protests, although he did not comment specifically on Saturday’s clashes.`This is a peaceful uprising but India is not giving the people any space for peaceful protests,” Farooq said.
On Friday, thousands of people took to the streets after prayers in the Muslim-majority region. The rallies led to scattered clashes which injured 19 police and paramilitary soldiers and 11 protesters, police said in a statement. Separatist groups have been fighting since 1989 to end Indian rule, leaving an estimated 68,000 people dead. At least 45 people have died in the recent violence, most of them killed when soldiers opened fire on Muslim protesters.-SANA