Widespread anti-India protests and clashes erupted in dozens of places in divided Kashmir, as authorities prevented tens of thousands of people from offering Friday prayers in popular mosques with a lockdown in place for the seventh straight day.
Indian troops armed with automatic rifles and in riot gear fanned across villages and towns in Indian-administered Kashmir, ordering residents to stay indoors. But protests and clashes with government forces sprang up in dozens of areas across the disputed region after people prayed in smaller, neighbourhood mosques.
Troops fired live ammunition, pellet guns and tear gas to disperse rock-throwing crowds who chanted pro-freedom and anti-India slogans.
At least one teenage boy was killed and two others injured after army soldiers fired guns to stop hundreds of villagers who attacked their camp with rocks in the Indian-administered northern Kupwara area, said a police officer who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to talk to reporters.
At two other places, in northern Baramulla and Sopore areas, six people, including two siblings, were injured in the clashes, the officer added.
Four injured, one reported to be critically, were brought to the main government hospital in Srinagar, the key city in the region, which has struggled to treat hundreds of wounded in clashes spread over the past week.
The officer said at least five policemen were also injured after an unknown person hurled a grenade at a police station during clashes in southern Yaripore village.
About 4,000 people gathered in Pakistan-administered Muzaffarabad, some carrying photos of slain rebel leader Burhan Wani, whose killing last week sparked unrest in which 32 people were killed – the deadliest clashes in Kashmir since 2010, when massive demonstrations were held against Indian rule.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, and most people in India’s area of control resent the presence of Indian troops and want independence or a merger with Pakistan. Pakistan denies India’s accusations that it arms and trains Kashmiri rebels.
Since the 1990s, more than 68,000 people have been killed in Kashmir’s uprising against Indian rule and the subsequent Indian military crackdown.
On Friday, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif vowed that his country would continue extending political, moral, and diplomatic support to Kashmiris. He urged his countrymen to observe a “black day” on Tuesday to express solidarity with “Kashmiris who are facing atrocities at the hands of Indian forces”.
In a statement released by Sharif’s office, the prime minister said a joint meeting of the National Assembly and the Senate would be convened to discuss Kashmir.
In New Delhi, India’s Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup asked Pakistan to desist from interfering in India’s internal affairs and destabilising the situation in South Asia through the support of “terrorism” and other subversive acts.