Hanging sparks protests in Indian Kashmir

Demonstrators defy curfew and telecoms blackout to condemn execution of Kashmiri man over 2001 parliament attack.

    One person has been killed after protests broke out in Indian-administered Kashmir despite a strict curfew to prevent violence after the execution of a Kashmiri man convicted in a deadly 2001 attack on India's parliament.

    Score of people defied the curfew and clashed with troops who fired tear gas shells to disperse the crowds, a police officer said on condition of anonymity on Sunday.

    Police said a man died in the Sumbal village in northern Kashmir after he jumped into a frigid river while trying to run away from troops who were firing tear gas and using batons to disperse the mob.

    Mohammed Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri Muslim convicted of helping to plot the 2001 attack on the Indian parliament which left 10 people dead, was executed on Saturday in New Delhi's Tihar jail.

    Before the execution, authorities ordered people in most of the Indian part of the Kashmir region to remain indoors indefinitely in anticipation of anti-India protests.

    Separate clashes

    In Watergam, a village near the town of Sopore, which was Guru's home, at least four people were wounded, one critically, as police and paramilitary troops fired tear gas shells and bullets to disperse an angry crowd, police said.

    Four policemen were injured in separate clashes.

    Police said 23 troops and 13 protesters were injured in demonstrations on Saturday. 

    Tens of thousands of security troops were fanned out across the Himalayan region, and metal barricades and razor wire blocked all major roads in the area.

    Cable television and mobile Internet services were shut down in most parts of the region, and most local newspapers were not available Sunday.

    Greater Kashmir, an English language newspaper, said on its website that police went to the printing presses of most local newspapers and asked managers not to publish Sunday editions.

    Showkat Ahmed Motta, the editor of another English daily, Kashmir Reader, said that his paper published Sunday's edition, but that police seized the copies.

    A top local police official denied that any newspapers were stopped from publishing, but said the strict curfew may have prevented copies of the papers from reaching readers.

    Guru's execution is an extremely sensitive matter in the Himalayan region, where most people believe his trial was not fair.

    Several rights groups across India and political groups in Indian Kashmir have also questioned the fairness of his trial.

    Guru confessed in TV interviews that he helped plot the attack on the parliament that killed 14 people, including the five gunmen, but later denied any involvement and said he had been tortured into confessing.

    Express mail

    Government prosecutors said that Guru was a member of the Pakistan-based armed group Jaish-e-Mohammed, a charge Guru denied.

    Guru had been on death row since first being convicted in 2002. Subsequent appeals in higher courts were also rejected, and India's Supreme Court set an execution date for October 2006.

    But his execution was delayed after his wife filed a mercy petition with India's president.

    That petition, the last step in the judicial process, was turned down last week.

    While Indian government officials said that Guru's family had been informed of his imminent execution by express mail, the family said it learned of it only through television news.

    "I wish we were the ones authorized to give the news to the family - we owed him that much,'' Omar Abdullah, Indian Kashmir's chief minister, told CNN-IBN news channel on Sunday.

    Anti-India sentiment runs deep in Kashmir, which is divided between India and Pakistan but is claimed by both nations.

    Since 1989, an armed uprising in the region and an ensuing crackdown have killed an estimated 68,000 people, mostly civilians.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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