Kashmir protests: Thousands attend funeral of schoolboy

Police fire tear gas to disperse protesters in Srinagar as nearly 100 people injured in clashes with security forces.

Funeral of minor killed during clashes in Srinagar
Kashmiri Muslims shout pro-freedom slogans as they attend the funeral procession of 11-year-old Nasir Shafi [EPA]

Thousands of demonstrators have defied a curfew in Indian-administered Kashmir to attend the funeral of a schoolboy whose body was found riddled with pellets.

Security forces fired tear-gas shells on Saturday to disperse stone-throwing protesters, triggering more clashes in at least half a dozen places across Srinagar and southern parts of the Himalayan valley.

“Forces responded when large crowds defied restrictions. Many were injured on both sides during the clashes that followed,” a local police officer told AFP news agency on condition of anonymity.

Another police official said nearly 100 people, mostly protesters, had been wounded in the latest demonstrations.

READ MORE: Kashmir – a story of defiance amid grief

Eleven-year-old Nasir Shafi’s body was found late on Friday on the outskirts of the main city of Srinagar after security forces used pellet guns to break up protesting crowds – despite the government vowing to replace the controversial weapons.

A curfew has been in place in large parts of the Muslim-majority Himalayan region since July when deadly protests erupted following the killing of rebel commander Burhan Wani by Indian forces.

Schools, banks and business establishments have been closed amid the curfew, while internet and mobile networks have also been cut off in a bid to prevent protests.

The killing of the schoolboy took the death toll to 81 in the worst violence to hit the Muslim-majority territory since 2010 [EPA]
The killing of the schoolboy took the death toll to 81 in the worst violence to hit the Muslim-majority territory since 2010 [EPA]

Faisal Khan, a Kashmiri photojournalist, told Al Jazeera that thousands of people turned up for the funeral.

Khan said journalists were allowed to cover the protests only after the intervention of senior-level officials.

“The intensity of protests has come down but it continues in a restrained manner after the security forces withdrew in the evening,” Khan said. “People desperately want something to happen this time.”

Wani’s video messages on social media were widely popular in which he exhorted young Kashmiris to rise up against Indian rule.

The killing of the schoolboy took the death toll to 81 in the worst violence to hit the territory since 2010.

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The government has come under growing pressure over the level of casualties. Most have died in clashes between protesters and government forces who have fired tear gas and pellet guns at demonstrators.

Earlier this month, India’s Home Minister Rajnath Singh said police and troops would use chilli-based shells instead of ones filled with pellets after hundreds of civilians sustained serious eye injuries in the clashes.

The metal pellets, or birdshot, fired from the pump-action shotguns rarely result in deaths, but can often blind victims.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the two gained independence from British rule in 1947. Both claim the territory in its entirety.

Rebel groups have for decades fought Indian soldiers – currently numbering about 500,000 – demanding independence for the region or its merger with Pakistan.

Tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, have died in the fighting.

 What will it take to restore peace in Indian-administered Kashmir? 

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies