Hundreds of protesters tried to storm a military airbase in Indian held Kashmir on Monday, the third day of deadly clashes between government forces and demonstrators angered by the killing of a popular young rebel.
Police said 30 people had now died in the violence, most of them protesters killed by gunshot wounds as government forces fired live ammunition and tear gas to try to enforce a curfew imposed across the occupied Kashmir Valley.
Thousands again defied the curfew to take to the streets on Monday. Police said several hundred protesters tried to storm an Indian Airforce base about 25 kilometres (15 miles) south of the occupied Srinagar as the worst civilian unrest since 2010 spread.
“A few hundred protesters stormed the airforce base,” said a senior officer on condition of anonymity. “We do not know if firearms were used, but the protesters were pushed back,” he said, adding there were no immediate reports of casualties.
Protesters also set police stations and vehicles on fire. On Sunday one police officer drowned when his armoured vehicle was pushed into a river.
The demonstrations follow the killing on Friday of Burhan Wani, a 22-year-old commander of Kashmir’s largest militant group Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), during a gun battle with government forces.
HM is one of several home-grown militant groups that have for decades been fighting around half a million Indian troops deployed in the region, calling for independence or a merger with Pakistan.
Around 300 people have been injured, including nearly 100 police, and hospitals say they are overwhelmed. There were also reports of injured protesters being targeted – one local doctors’ association said Sunday that tear gas canisters had been fired inside a hospital emergency room.
Another group, the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition for Civil Society, alleged that police had attacked ambulances taking the wounded to hospital. The state government has called for calm and has cut off Internet and mobile phone networks to try to stop the protests spreading.
It is the worst civilian violence to hit the restive region since 2010, when mass protests broke out against Indian rule. New Delhi warned Islamabad late Monday not to meddle in India’s internal matters after Pakistan accused it of violating human rights in the aftermath of Wani’s killing.
“We have seen statements from Pakistan on the situation in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. They reflect Pakistan’s continued attachment to terrorism and its usage as an instrument of State policy,” an Indian foreign ministry statement said.
“Pakistan is advised to refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of its neighbours.” On Sunday, Pakistan expressed deep shock at Wani’s death.
A statement from the prime minister’s office condemned the “excessive and unlawful force” used against those protesting the killing, adding: “Oppressive measures such as these cannot deter the valiant people of occupied Jammu and Kashmir from their demand of exercising their right to self determination.”
On Monday, Kashmiri leaders said a shutdown protesting his death should be extended by two more days, and called a rally in occupied Srinagar on Friday. -AFP