Central & South Asia
'Accidental' death sparks protests in Kashmir
Protests held after 22-year-old man killed in 'accidental' shooting by Indian military, with funeral marked by clashes.
Last Modified: 11 Feb 2012 22:20
Funeral for Ashiq Hussain Rather, 22,  turned violent after a tense standoff with police [AFP]

Angry demonstrators blocked a main highway in Indian administered Kashmir to protest the killing of a young man by the Indian army in an incident the military has referred to as an "accidental" shooting.

Ashiq Hussain Rather, 22, was killed late on Friday when a soldier accidentally fired his rifle as security forces combed the area for militants, the army said.

The killing occurred in the Baramulla district of the Kashmir valley.

Relatives and other residents of the area said that he was shot and killed inside the compound of his house.

"It was a case of the accidental discharge of a single bullet by a soldier which led to the unfortunate incident," Lieutenant General SA Hasnain told the Press Trust of India.

"The deceased was innocent. Inquiries have been ordered," he added.

Police used batons and tear gas to disperse the protesters, who were blocking traffic along the main Kupwara-Baramulla highway in the Indian-administered part of a state that India and Pakistan have fought at least two full-blown wars over.

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Police also engaged in a stand-off with members of a funeral procession for Rather in Lesar village, in the Rafiabad area of Baramulla district.

There are nearly a dozen Kashmiri groups fighting for the divided Muslim-majority region to become part of Pakistan. More than 47,000 people have been killed since the outbreak of the separatist insurgency in Kashmir in 1989.

Violence has dropped sharply in the state, however, since India and Pakistan began a peace process in 2004.

Both countries hold part of the Himalayan region, but claim it in full.

Omar Abdullah, the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir state, said the government would be investigating the death.

"We will ascertain the facts and any action will follow after that," Abdullah told India's NDTV channel.

JKLF strike call

Many businesses and commercial establishments also remained closed on Saturday after a strike call from the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) to mark the 28th anniversary of the death of Mohammad Maqbool Bhat, the group's founder.

The strike call was supported by both factions of the Hurriyat Conference, a group that opposes Indian rule over Kashmir but has split in recent years.

Bhat was hanged in Delhi's Tihar jail in 1984, after having been convicted of murder.

Local media reported that at least three JKLF leaders, including Chairman Yasin Malik, were detained after trying to hold a rally to mark the day.

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