Seven killed in Kashmir cross-border shelling

India and Pakistan trade blame over deadly shelling on the anniversary of the death of rebel leader Burhan Wani.

    Seven killed in Kashmir cross-border shelling
    The violence occurred as protesters marking the first anniversary of the death of Wani clashed with police in Indian-administered Kashmir [Reuters]

    Seven people have been killed in cross-border shelling in disputed Kashmir, with both Pakistani and Indian officials trading the blame.

    The violence occurred as protesters clashed with police in Indian-administered Kashmir on Saturday, as they marked the anniversary of the death of rebel leader Burhan Wani who was killed by the army after urging the region's mainly Muslim population to rise up against Indian forces.

    Five people died and 10 were wounded on Pakistan's side of the disputed border, local police officials told Reuters news agency. 

    Pakistan's government said it summoned India's Deputy High Commissioner JP Singh over what it called "unprovoked ceasefire violations".

    The Indian army's defence spokesman said two civilians were killed and two others were wounded on its side of the frontier due to shelling by Pakistani troops. The army responded in kind to the Pakistani shelling, he said.

    The disputed region has seen an explosion of protests against Indian rule since government forces shot and killed Wani a year ago.

    The death of the 23-year-old, who had built up a big following on social media, sparked an outpouring of grief and anger that spilled into the streets and led to months of clashes with security forces.

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    Nearly 100 people died in the months that followed and many more sustained serious eye injuries from the pellet guns used by government forces to quell the protests.

    "Burhan made a place in our hearts as a hero," Kashmiri student Umair Farooq told Al Jazeera before the anniversary. "Many young Kashmiris joined the rebellion after his death. He is still alive in our hearts."

    'Fighting for their future'

    Separatist leaders, most of whom have been either confined to their homes or jailed, have called for a week of protests from Saturday to mark Wani's death.

    Muzaffar Wani, Burhan's father, told Al Jazeera that the protest movement in the region cannot be suppressed by the authorities.

    "The more they try to suppress us, the more we will rise up. Everyone here is fighting for their future," he said.

    "Given the kind of suppression we are facing, people think it is better to sacrifice themselves, rather than permitting humiliation of their mothers, brothers and sisters."

    All roads leading to Wani's hometown of Tral in south Kashmir were blocked in advance of the anniversary and authorities seized thousands of motorbikes to prevent people from travelling between villages in the area.

    Witnesses and police told the AFP news agency that clashes broke out on Saturday when protesters tried to reach the family home and were blocked by government forces.

    Sixty years of division

    Kashmir, divided between India and Pakistan since 1947, has a long history of conflict and is one of the most heavily militarised places on earth.

    The mountainous region is home to dozens of armed groups fighting for independence or a merger of the territory with Pakistan.

    However, since Wani's death, civilians have played an increasingly active role in the rebellion against Indian rule.

    In parts of south Kashmir, the epicentre of protests, villagers began intervening in raids on suspects, throwing stones at government forces to create a distraction and give the rebels a chance to flee.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies


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