SRINAGAR: At least four protesters were killed and 60 injured in Indian-administered Kashmir Saturday after thousands defied a curfew following the death of a top rebel commander, officials said.
Clashes spread across the disputed territory as protesters angry at the killing on Friday of Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) leader Burhan Wani torched police stations and threw rocks at army camps in the south of the restive region.
“Four have died of bullet wounds and 60 injured have been brought in so far, six of them are in a critical condition,” a staff member at a hospital in the southern town of Anantnag told AFP, asking to remain anonymous.
Wani, a 22-year-old commander of Kashmir’s largest rebel group HM, was killed along with two other rebels during a brief gun battle with government forces.
Authorities handed the body of Wani, viewed by locals as a hero since he joined the rebel group at the age of 15, over to his family early Saturday morning.
He was buried as tens of thousands attending the funeral chanted independence slogans and suspected rebels fired pistol shots in his honour, witnesses said.
“It was a sea of people shouting slogans in favour of freedom from India,” one said.
Authorities imposed a curfew in large parts of the territory and suspended mobile networks and internet to prevent wide-scale demonstrations.
But thousands defied the restrictions as tensions intensified and clashes spread.
Government forces fired tear gas canisters and live ammunition at protesters in several places.
Streets in the main city of Srinagar were deserted except for hundreds of soldiers and police ordering people to stay indoors.
“Yes we have imposed a curfew, but of course his (Wani’s) funeral was allowed,” director general of police for the Indian-held region, K. Rajendra told AFP.
Wani’s death had sparked protests and clashes throughout the night Friday, with mosque loudspeakers blaring “Azadi” (freedom from Indian rule) in most areas, including the capital Srinagar.
“Aftr many yrs I hear slogans for ‘Azadi’ resonate from the mosque in my uptown Srinagar locality,” former chief minister of the disputed state, Omar Abdullah, said on Twitter.
“Kashmir’s disaffected got a new icon y’day.”
Resistance groups opposed to Indian rule of Kashmir have called for three days of mourning and a shutdown in the territory after the rebel commander’s killing.
Kashmir has been divided between rivals India and Pakistan since 1947, but both claim the territory in its entirety.
HM is one of several groups that for decades have been fighting around half a million Indian troops deployed in the region, calling for independence for Kashmir or a merger with Pakistan.
Tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, have died in the fighting since 1989. -AFP