Kashmir tense after clashes mar by-election

Indian police impose curfew-like curbs across parts of region, a day after deadly clashes between protesters and police.

Indian police have imposed curfew-like curbs on movement of people across several parts of Indian-administered Kashmir, a day after clashes with protesters against a by-election left eight people dead and more than 200 injured.

Separatist factions in Kashmir have called for a two-day strike in protest on Monday.

Their calls to boycott the poll in Srinagar, and the ensuing violence, resulted in voter turnout of a mere 7 percent on Sunday and forced 70 polling stations to shut down.

During clashes in Budgam district, police initially used tear gas against protesters who were throwing stones, but then opened fire, killing seven people, a senior police officer told Reuters news agency.

Kashmir: Police kill civilians in by-election clashes

One protester was killed in a separate incident.

Among the dead was 22-year-old Omar Farooq, who was hit by two two bullets – one in the chest and another in the ribs – according to eye witnesses.

At his funeral on Monday, gathered crowds expressed their anger against the government.

“People can see how much India oppresses us, abuses our mothers and sisters, abuses our religion Islam and puts our brothers into graves,” Asif Rasool, 25, told Al Jazeera. 

“This is the reason Kashmiris don’t want to stay with India.”

Fayaz Mir, a member of parliament from Jammu and Kashmir’s ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), acknowledged people’s anger and called for dialogue.

“This is not the first time there is such an issue in Kashmir,” Mir told Al Jazeera.

“It hasn’t happened only in this government, so there is need to start dialogue to address people’s resentment,” Mir added.

Security tightened

In another Kashmir-related development on Monday, the Indian government informed the Supreme Court that authorities would introduce new rubber-based bullets for security forces to deal with violent protests in the region.

The government said it has issued new “standard operating procedures” to deal with “stone pelters in the Valley”, one of which involves using rubber-based bullets before using pellet guns.

The response comes almost two weeks after the Supreme Court asked the government to consider using alternative measures other than pellet guns to deal with protests in Kashmir, citing the need for maximum restraint.

Security was tightened on Monday across Kashmir, with police blocking roads with barricades and restricting movement of vehicles.

Some train services were also suspended in the region, a railway official said.

“This is a reaction to what is happening in Kashmir, because people are getting killed mercilessly,” a young protester in Srinagar, who declined to give his name for fear of reprisal, told Al Jazeera, referring to Sunday’s clashes.

“The youths are coming out to express their anger and dissent in every way possible.”

Waheed Para, spokesman for Jammu and Kashmir’s ruling PDP, told Al Jazeera: “We regret these killings. It will take some time to bring back a conducive environment in the state.”

Shantmanu, chief electoral officer of the Muslim-majority state, said “more than 200 incidents of violence” were reported on Sunday, including stone-pelting, petrol bomb attacks and setting ablaze of a polling station.

The by-election was held in the key city of Srinagar to fill a vacant seat in India’s lower house of parliament, the Lok Sabha.

A second by-election in the state is set to take place on April 12 in Anantnag.

“We are worried about Anantnag polls because it is a more sensitive area,” the police official said.

Security has been beefed up, with police restricting movement of vehicles [Danish Ismail/Reuters]
Security has been beefed up, with police restricting movement of vehicles [Danish Ismail/Reuters]

Kashmir witnessed deadly protests after a well-known separatist commander was killed last year.

The violence has killed 84 civilians and wounded more than 12,000 civilians and security force personnel.

In a separate incident on Monday, Rajesh Kalia, an Indian defence official, said four suspected fighters were killed after they tried to infiltrate along the frontier with Pakistan near an area known as the Keran sector.

“We noticed movement of militants early in the morning and killed them during an ambush,” Kalia said.

READ MORE: Mirza Waheed – ‘Violence will not end Kashmir conflict’

Details of the incident could not immediately be independently verified.

Neighbours India and Pakistan claim divided Kashmir in full, but governs separate parts.

Two of the three wars they have fought since independence from Britain in 1947 have been over Kashmir.

Last September, tension escalated as armed men killed 19 Indian soldiers at an army camp in Kashmir, an attack India blamed on Pakistan-based fighters.

India accuses Pakistan of backing separatist fighters in the Himalayan region, a charge Pakistan denies.

Fahad Shah contributed to this report from Srinagar.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies