|Kashmir has been rocked by deadly protests against Indian rule since June [AFP]|
At least three more people have been killed in continuing violence in Indian-administered Kashmir, bringing the number of civilian deaths in the region during the ongoing unrest to over 100.
Saturday’s deaths came as thousands of Kashmiris poured onto the streets shouting “Go back India” and “We want freedom”, defying curfews imposed by the federal government to contain the spiralling unrest.
Two young men died after police opened fire on protesters blocking a key highway in Palhalan village, north of Srinagar city.
“We now have two people who are dead, we were forced to open fire because of the violence,” a police spokesman in Palhalan told AFP news agency.
However, residents say the protest had been peaceful.
“They didn’t even try to disperse the protest with tear gas or a baton charge. They fired directly without any provocation,” Ghulam Ahmed Tantray, a resident in Palhalan, said.
The third person was killed in Anantag district, south of Srinagar, after police fired on a stone-pelting crowd during the funeral march of a man who drowned earlier this week after police allegedly chased him into a river.
“Security forces had to open fire to quell the violent demonstration,” a police officer in Anantag said.
Syed Ali Geelani, Kashmir’s key separatist leader, has called for protesters to block police and army camps with peaceful sit-ins starting next Tuesday, posing a new challenge to security forces struggling to restore order.
Amnesty International, a London-based rights group, appealed to Indian authorities to order security forces not to use firearms against demonstrators.
“Security forces should use the minimum force necessary to defend themselves,” Amnesty said in a statement.
With protests escalating in Kashmir over the past week, the government on Friday deployed the army for crowd control.
The Himalayan region has been rocked by deadly protests against Indian rule since June.
Opposition groups have been fighting since 1989 for the region’s independence from India or its merger with neighbouring Pakistan.