Death toll rises as Kashmir tension persists

Protests held on both sides of border after execution of Kashmiri man implicated in 2001 attack on Indian parliament.

    Death toll rises as Kashmir tension persists
    Afzal Guru's execution has prompted demonstrations on both Indian and Pakistani areas of Kashmir [Reuters]

    A boy shot by security forces in Indian-administered Kashmir has died in hospital, taking the death toll to three during protests at the execution of a Kashmiri man convicted for his role in 2001 attacks on India's parliament.

    Despite a strict curfew on Monday, protests and clashes between troops and demonstrators broke out at a dozen places in the region.

    Afzul Guru's execution on Saturday has raised tension in the Himalayan region, where most people believe his trial was not fair.

    In Watergam village, near the town of Sopore, which was Guru's home, a 12-year-old boy, Obaid Mushtaq, died early on Monday of injuries after police and paramilitary troops fired tear gas shells and bullets a day earlier to disperse an angry crowd, Aijaz Mustafa, a hospital official, said.

    He said an 18-year-old boy injured in the clashes was on life support. At least two other people were also injured, police said.

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

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

    Police presence

    The number of police on the streets also increased on Monday amid fears of protests on the 29th anniversary of the execution of a separatist leader.

    The February 11 anniversary of the death of Maqbool Bhat, a founder of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, is usually marked by large rallies and separatist groups called for a general strike on Monday.

    Some of the few people authorised to leave curfew-bound areas on Monday were tourists who headed to the airport after being confined to their hotels over the weekend.

    Several activists tried to hold a procession in Butt's honour in Srinagar, the main city in the region, but police chased them away.

    An Indian court convicted Butt of killing an intelligence officer and he was hanged in 1984 in the same New Delhi jail where Guru was executed.

    Fearing a backlash in Kashmir, where anti-India feelings run deep after more than two decades of separatist fighting, authorities have imposed a curfew, arrested local politicians and restricted the local press and internet.

    Crowds of mostly young men have defied the orders.

    Protests in Pakistan

    Two other men died on Sunday after they drowned trying to escape police during a demonstration in the village of Sumbal, about 25km  north of the main city of Srinagar.

    The handling of Guru's execution has been severely criticised by Kashmir's Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who said it would deepen the sense of frustration and alienation in India's only Muslim-majority state.

    Thousands attended the funeral processions of the two young men on Monday, shouting slogans such as "We want freedom.''

    Guru's execution has also led to protests on the Pakistani side of Kashmir.

    Around 1,500 activists from a political groups including the main ruling Pakistan People's Party, took part in the demonstration, police said.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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