Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir – Three civilians, including a 15-year-old female student, have been killed after Indian paramilitary forces fired on protesters in Indian-administered Kashmir, officials said.
A top police official told Al Jazeera that the clashes on Saturday erupted after demonstrators threw rocks at an army patrol in Hawoora Mishipora village of the southern Kulgam district.
“In a very unfortunate incident, three civilians were killed during the clashes in Kulgam. We are investigating the incident,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
The official said two people who suffered injuries were in “stable” condition.
“We have suspended the mobile internet services in Kashmir to prevent any law and order problems,” the official added.
Mushtaq Ahmad, a Hawoora Mishipora resident, told Al Jazeera that the army entered the village at noon “and started beating people”.
“They also entered the school and started beating teachers. This triggered protests and the army directly fired at people. They enjoy these killings because there is no one to ask them.”
Rajesh Kalia, a Srinagar-based spokesperson of the Indian security forces, said in a statement that “an army patrol came under heavy stone pelting in Kulgam”.
“Troops, while exercising extreme restraint, cautioned the stone pelters. In response to this grave provocation and to ensure the security of own troops, controlled firing was resorted to by the army which resulted in an unfortunate loss of human lives,” he said.
Rebel commander’s death anniversary
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since 1947. The mountainous region has a long history of conflict and is one of the most heavily militarised places on Earth.
It is home to dozens of armed groups fighting for independence or a merger of the territory with Pakistan.
Thousands of people participated on Saturday in the funerals of the three civilians as fresh protests erupted in the southern districts where hundreds took to the streets and chanted anti-India slogans.
The latest killings took place a day before the second anniversary of the killing by Indian security forces of Burhan Wani, a popular commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen rebel group.
Wani’s death on July 8, 2016, triggered widespread demonstrations across the disputed territory for five months, during which more than 100 protesters were shot dead by Indian forces.
Hundreds of civilians were also blinded or suffered eye injuries after paramilitary forces fired lead pellets to control protesting crowds.
In advance of the anniversary of Wani’s death, the authorities restricted the movement of people towards his hometown and increased security measures.
Large numbers of security forces have been guarding the streets, while checkpoints have been set up in the volatile parts.
The separatist leaders, who demand independence from Indian rule, called for a shutdown on July 7 and 8 as a mark of protest. Shops, schools and business establishments remained closed on Saturday.
The senior separatist leader, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, said on Twitter that “firing bullets, killing young boys and girls” reflects the “green signal” given to the Indian armed forces “to wipe off Kashmiris with absolute impunity to hold on to their territory”.
Since the killing of Wani, who had a huge social media following, there has been an increase in the number of youth taking up arms to fight against Indian rule.
Indian forces have responded with strong force, resulting in intermittent gun battles between troops and rebels. The fighting often triggers civilian protests in which a number of people have been killed.
“There was injustice and oppression when Burhan picked up the gun and same continues now. Not a single day passes without the bloodshed,” Wani’s mother, Mymoona, told Al Jazeera.
However, since Wani’s death, civilians have played an increasingly active role in the rebellion against Indian rule.