SRINAGAR – Indian authorities clamped a curfew across most of held Kashmir for the first day of the Muslim Ramazan festival Sunday and partially cut telephone services to thwart protests over the killing of a top separatist commander.

The lockdown in the mainly Muslim region crippled life on the first day of the Islamic holy month after widespread violence on Saturday over the killing of Sabzar Ahmad Bhat in a gunfight with government forces.

Government forces in riot gear erected barricades in the main city, Srinagar, and other towns in southern Kashmir to prevent people from reaching the commander’s funeral.

But thousands of mourners defied the security curbs Sunday to attended the burial of the rebel commander in his hometown amid anti-India and pro-Independence slogans.

Srinagar’s central mosque remained shut and devotees were barred from offering prayers on the first day of the Ramazan fasting period.

“Restrictions have been put in place in some areas to maintain law and order,” police chief Shesh Pal Vaid told AFP.
Bhat, head of the Hizbul Mujahideen, and a 16-year-old associate were killed in a gunfight near his native village in Tral area.

A protester was shot dead by troops during clashes as hundreds of villagers tried to break the security cordon to help the militants to escape. Clashes spread to other districts, leaving dozens injured.

Last year nearly 100 protesters were killed after militant chief Burhan Wani was killed, triggering months of anti-India protests. Bhat took over as the leader.

“Forces have blocked all roads to restrict people to their areas,” Bashir Ahmad, a resident of Pulwama told AFP, a neighbouring district of Tral.