Tensions have been high across the predominantly-Muslim Himalayan region during nearly three weeks of demonstrations against the killing of Kashmiris by Indian security forces.

The latest violence began with the death of a schoolboy on June 11.

"When incidents like this happen, when innocents get killed, people get provoked," Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, the leader of the Separatist Hurriyet Conference, told Al Jazeera.

"I think the way the government dealing with the situation is again a total act of aggression."

'Unofficial curfew'

Thousands of police in riot gear have been sent out onto the streets of Srinagar and shops, businesses and government offices were shut on Tuesday.

"They have not imposed a curfew, but it is some unofficial type of curfew. There is a complete shutdown"

Tairah Firdaws,
Kashmiri filmmaker

Sajad Ahmed, a local police officer, said that no curfew has been imposed, but that the state government had banned gatherings of more than five people.

"We are imposing restrictions to avoid clashes," Ahmed said.

Police and paramilitary soldiers drove through neighbourhoods warning people to stay indoors and not participate in pro-independence protests. Text message services were blocked to stop demonstrators from organising themselves.

Similar restrictions were imposed in several other towns in the region, while an indefinite curfew has been in force for five consecutive days in Sopore, 55km northwest of Srinagar.

Tairah Firdaws, a filmmaker in Baramulla, told Al Jazeera that the restrictions were a curfew in all but name

"They have not imposed a curfew, but it is some unofficial type of curfew. There is a complete shutdown," she said.

"People cannot go out, people are still protesting and there are clashes with security personnel. As I m talking to you, I can still hear shots outside.

"The situation is pretty tense here, the way they locked the communication, people cannot communicate and cannot know what is happening outside."

'Long time' dispute

But the Indian government has defended the military's actions in Jammu and Kashmir in recent weeks.

"There is a government in Kashmir, democratically elected. I think given the situation and circumstances, which Jammu and Kashmir has been passing through for a very long time; they are trying their best to handle the situation to the best of their ability," Manish Tewari, a spokesman for the ruling Congress party, said.

India deploys an estimated 500,000 soldiers in Kashmir, which is jointly administered by India and Pakistan, a legacy of British colonial rule on the subcontinent.

The two countries, which fought two of their three wars over Kashmir, both lay claim to the entire area.

India accuses Pakistan of funding and training anti-India fighters in the Pakistani-held portion of Kashmir and helping them slip over to the Indian side to fight. Islamabad denies the charge.

More than 68,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in two decades of fighting against the Indian state.