By AIJAZ HUSSAIN, Associated Press Aug. 1, 2010
SRINAGAR, India – Four people were gunned down Sunday by security forces
who opened fire on thousands of protesters and another four civilians were
killed in a blast at a police station, bringing the death toll from weeks
of clashes in increasingly violent Indian Kashmir to 31.
The explosion happened after the police station was set on fire by
residents angry at two deaths in Khrew, a town near Srinagar where
hundreds had been protesting Indian rule, a top police officer said.
At least four people were killed and dozens of civilians were injured in
the blast, the officer said on condition of anonymity as he didn't want
his name to be used.
There were no casualties among the police officers who fled the area as
the mob attacked the police station, which also housed a state
counterinsurgency police force, the officer said.
A lot of explosive material used in quarry blasting was stored in the
police station as the town is known for its cement industry and it might
have triggered the blast, he said.
"A deafening blast shook the earth beneath and a flying brick hit my
head," said Mohammed Yousuf, an eyewitness. "We don't know what happened
inside the premises, but outside many were left injured."
Earlier, demonstrators began hurling stones after government forces tried
to prevent them from marching in the town of Pampore, another police
Government forces opened fire, killing two of the protesters, the officer
Another two people were killed and five others injured in firing by
government forces in nearby Khrew, where hundreds of people marched
through the streets chanting pro-independence slogans, the officer said.
As night fell, thousands of Kashmiri Muslims held protest marches in towns
and villages across the region and clashed with government forces, police
and local residents said. Many injuries were feared in the violence,
Hundreds of residents of Pampore and nearby villages had joined
demonstrations Sunday and set government buildings and vehicles on fire
after hearing about the shooting deaths of two people on Saturday, police
and witnesses said.
The two were shot dead and five others were wounded after police in two
towns opened fire on protesters who had attacked their camps and pelted
them with rocks.
The recent tension in the Himalayan region — divided between India and
Pakistan and claimed by both — is reminiscent of the late 1980s, when
protests against New Delhi's rule sparked an armed conflict. More than
68,000 people have been killed, mostly civilians.
The mostly Muslim region, where resistance to rule by predominantly Hindu
India is strong, has been under a rolling curfew and strikes after
anti-India street protests and clashes surged.
The latest cycle of protests against Indian rule in the troubled region
has left at least 31 dead — mostly teenagers and young men in their 20s —
over the past six weeks.
India and Pakistan have fought two wars over control of Kashmir since
1947. Both claim the region in entirety.
Separatist politicians and militants reject Indian sovereignty over
Kashmir and want to carve out a separate homeland or merge with
predominantly Muslim Pakistan.