Clashes between Indian forces, Kashmiri protesters injure 25

AP News
Posted: Apr 17, 2015 10:22 AM
Clashes between Indian forces, Kashmiri protesters injure 25

SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse hundreds of demonstrators in Indian-controlled Kashmir who hurled rocks and chanted anti-Indian and pro-Pakistan slogans Friday, and officials said at least 20 police personnel and five protesters were injured.

Clashes erupted in at least two places in Srinagar, the region's main city, and the southern town of Tral shortly after Friday prayers as people tried to march through the streets to protest the killing of a militant commander's brother.

The Indian army said the man was killed in a gunbattle along with a militant on Monday near Tral, while his relatives and local residents said he was tortured to death. Tral is nearly 35 kilometers (22 miles) south of Srinagar.

The protesters also burned the Indian flag and demanded an end to Indian rule in the Himalayan region.

Earlier, police arrested a top Kashmiri separatist leader for leading an anti-India demonstration earlier in the week.

Masarat Alam was placed under house arrest on Thursday night and formally arrested Friday, police officer K. Rajendra said. He had been released just weeks earlier from five years' imprisonment for organizing anti-India protests in 2010.

Police also put two other separatist leaders, Syed Ali Geelani and Shabir Shah, under house arrest to prevent them from leading a planned march, Rajendra said. Government forces thwarted the march on Friday.

Geelani in a statement called for a general strike on Saturday to protest the Tral killings, arrest and detention of separatist leaders and what he called biased coverage by the Indian media of events in Kashmir. He apparently objected to broad calls, especially on Indian TV channels, for a strict government action against separatist leaders and their supporters.

Police said Alam joined thousands of Kashmiris waving Pakistani flags at a rally in Srinagar on Wednesday and chanted "provocative and seditious slogans like 'Long live Pakistan' and 'We want freedom.'" The rally was held to welcome home Geelani, 85, who returned from New Delhi after undergoing treatment for heart and kidney ailments for three months.

Indian television channels repeatedly broadcast scenes of the rally, triggering outrage by politicians in New Delhi. Federal Home Minister Rajnath Singh called Kashmir's top elected official, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, and demanded stern action against Alam.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, which both claim the entire territory. Residents of the Indian-held portion strongly favor independence or a merger with Pakistan, and their deep opposition to Indian rule is often expressed through street demonstrations since Indian troops largely suppressed an armed uprising.

A number of militant groups have operated in the region since the insurgency erupted in 1989. An estimated 68,000 people have died in the fighting and the ensuing crackdown by Indian forces.