SRINAGAR – At least 20 people are dead and 200 injured in Indian-administered Kashmir after fierce clashes between rebels and government forces on Sunday.
Four civilians were killed when police opened fire on protesters. A curfew has been imposed in parts of the state.
At least 25 civilians suffered pellet wounds, while six others were being treated for bullet injuries, according to police. Locals, however, said that the number of those hurt was higher.
Armed police and paramilitary soldiers in riot gear fanned out across the region Monday and are patrolling streets in anticipation of anti-India protests and clashes.
Shops and businesses closed in other areas where no security restrictions were in place. Hurriyet leaders who challenge India’s sovereignty over Kashmir have called for a shutdown on Monday against the killings.
Authorities shut schools and colleges and canceled university exams in an attempt to stop protests by students. They also stopped train services and cut cellphone internet services in the most restive towns, and reduced connection speeds in other parts of the Kashmir Valley, a common government practice aimed to calm tensions and prevent anti-India demonstrations from being organised.
— Govt of Pakistan (@pid_gov) April 2, 2018
Officials in Kashmir say this is the restive region’s worst loss of life during a single day in recent years.
As well as the civilians, at least three Indian soldiers were killed on Sunday.
Kashmir is one of the most militarised regions in the world, as India has stationed about half a million soldiers in the disputed territory.
Villages in south Kashmir, particularly Shopian, Pulwama and Anantnag have become rebel hotbeds since July 2016, after the killing of young rebel commander Burhan Wani.
Wani’s killing in a gunfight led to widespread protests in the region for five long months, during which over 100 civilians were killed, and hundreds lost their eyes to the pellet guns fired by forces.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the conflict in Kashmir, which nuclear-armed India and Pakistan claim in full.
Anti-India sentiment runs deep in Kashmir, which in recent years has seen renewed rebel attacks and repeated public protests against Indian rule.
Most Kashmiris support the rebels’ cause against Indian rule while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian control.
Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.