By Fayaz Bukhari
SRINAGAR, India (Reuters) – Indian soldiers fired on a stone-throwing crowd defying a curfew in the Kashmir region, killing three people, police said on Tuesday, as unrest sparked by the death of a separatist militant flared.
Authorities have imposed a curfew in Muslim-majority Kashmir for 11 days, blocked mobile phones and briefly ordered curbs on newspapers to stop people from gathering and to control the worst outbreak of violence there in six years.
Late on Monday, protesters blocked a road and threw stones at an army convoy.
“Some miscreants then tried to snatch weapons from the army and tried to set vehicles on fire,” a police spokesman said on Tuesday.
The army opened fire after the protesters refused to heed warnings and two women were killed, the spokesman said.
A third person died in hospital on Tuesday, taking the death toll to 42 since protests erupted on July 9 over the killing of Burhan Wani, 22, a commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen militant group, the previous day.
About 3,500 people have been hurt, many with eye injuries caused by pellets Indian forces have been firing from a non-lethal weapon. The injuries have fueled anger.
Kashmir is India’s only Muslim-majority state and has been contentious since India and Muslim Pakistan were carved out of British-ruled India and declared independent in 1947.
Both sides rule the Himalayan region in part but claim it in full and India has long accused Pakistan of arming separatists battling Indian forces in its part of Kashmir. Pakistan denies that.
The young militant Wani represented a new generation of fighters in a region where alienation runs deep even though attacks have fallen dramatically since the revolt broke out in 1989.
India’s interior minister, Rajnath Singh, said he had ordered security forces to exercise restraint. He told parliament he would visit Kashmir soon and hold talks with people “whose pain is being felt by every Indian”.
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, which has advocated a tough stand on Kashmir, shares power with a regional party in Kashmir and has been criticized for failing to address grievances.
The publisher of Kashmir’s largest-circulation newspaper said authorities had asked him to resume publication after police seized newspapers over the weekend and shut down cable television, saying it was necessary to stop people from fomenting trouble.
But Abdul Rashid Mukhdoomi, printer and publisher of Greater Kashmir, said he was meeting other publishers to decide whether to resume publication under the curfew.
Militants claiming to be “brothers close” to Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent had called on social media for people in Kashmir to attack Indian forces, U.S. intelligence group SITE said on Monday.
(Writing by Sanjeev Miglani; Editing by Robert Birsel)