Two protesters have been killed and at least 100 others injured when anti-India demonstrators clashed with government forces in Indian-administered Kashmir as the region remains locked down for the 64th day, officials have said.
One young man was killed in southern Shopian district on Saturday when his head was hit with a tear-gas canister fired by police, a medical officer in the local hospital said.
Another protester died of pellet injuries as government forces fired pump action shotguns to break up a public rally against Indian rule attended by thousands in Botengoo village in southern Kashmir valley, a police officer said.
The officer spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to media.
“We have reports of more than 100 injured in today’s protests. Around 25 of them have bullet wounds,” the police officer said.
The protests and clashes broke out in at least half a dozen places across the southern and central parts of the Himalayan valley.
Thousands of people in Indian-administered Kashmir have been protesting against Indian rule almost daily since the killing of a popular rebel leader in a gun battle with soldiers on July 8, staging “freedom rallies”.
With Saturday’s killings, the death toll in the unrest, which has entered its third month, climbed to 78.
The government has been coming under growing pressure over the use of pellet guns and the level of casualties in Kashmir during the anti-India protests.
The metal pellets or birdshot fired from the pump-action shotguns rarely result in deaths, but can often blind victims if the fragments hit them in the eye.
Authorities lifted a curfew in most parts of the territory late last month, but schools, shops and many banks remain closed while residents struggle with a communications blackout.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the two gained independence from British rule in 1947. Both claim the territory in full.
Several rebel groups have for decades fought Indian soldiers – currently numbering around 500,000 deployed in the territory, demanding independence for the region or its merger with Pakistan.
Tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, have died in the fighting.