Indian soldiers fatally shot a young man at a checkpoint in the Himalayan region of Kashmir on Wednesday, triggering anti-India protests and clashes in the disputed territory.
India’s Central Reserve Police Force said the man was driving a car and ignored signals to stop at two checkpoints on the western outskirts of Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir’s main city.
The force said the soldiers feared an attack because a military convoy was passing by at the time.
It said in a statement that a soldier shot the victim “when the car didn’t stop despite warning shots”.
The man’s father, Ghulam Nabi Shah, denied the police account, saying his son did not drive through any checkpoints, and soldiers first stopped him and then shot him.
A witness, Firdousa, said the victim stopped his car when soldiers signalled him.
“A security official told him something to which he replied that he had some emergency. They let him go but as he was getting into his vehicle, they shot him in the back,” she said.
“He was killed deliberately. He did no wrong.”
As news of his death spread in his village, hundreds of men and women began chanting “Go India, go back” and “We want freedom”. They demanded the victim’s body be returned to the family for burial.
Authorities did not immediately hand over the body.
As security forces moved in to stop the villagers from marching, hundreds threw stones at the troops, who fired shotgun pellets and tear gas to quell the protests. There were no immediate reports of casualties in the clashes.
Authorities shut down mobile internet service in the area, a common Indian tactic in the region when demonstrations erupt.
Indian forces have imposed a stringent lockdown in the region since late March to combat the coronavirus.
Despite the lockdown, India has stepped up its counterinsurgency operations while rebels have also continued their attacks on government forces and alleged informants.
Indian soldiers man checkpoints and bunkers across the region, where an armed resistance to Indian rule has raged since 1989. About 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.
Residents make little secret of their anger at the troops’ presence and support the rebels’ call for the territory to be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.
India and Pakistan each administer parts of Kashmir, but both claim the region in its entirety.