SRINAGAR: Around 100 people were injured Sunday as Indian government forces fired tear gas and shotgun pellets to quell thousands of protesters who pelted rocks and burned a government office in the Indian portion of Kashmir, police said.
Clashes erupted when police tried to stop the marchers heading to a village in Shopian district in response to a call from separatist groups challenging India’s sovereignty over Kashmir. The area is 70 kilometers (45 miles) south of Srinagar, the main city in Indian-controlled Kashmir.
Also Sunday, key Kashmiri separatist leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik refused to meet a group of Indian lawmakers who came from New Delhi as part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s efforts to restore normalcy in the troubled region.
In a joint statement, the leaders demanded that the Indian government address the “core issue of the peoples’ right to self-determination in Jammu-Kashmir.”
A prolonged curfew, communication blackouts and a tightening crackdown have failed to stop some of the largest protests against Indian rule in recent years, triggered by a rebel commander’s killing on July 8. Since then, tens of thousands of people have defied security restrictions, staged protests and clashed with government forces on a daily basis to seek an end of Indian rule.
At least 70 civilians have been killed and thousands injured, mostly by government forces firing bullets and shotguns at rock-throwing protesters. Two policemen have been killed and hundreds of government forces have been injured in the clashes.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and claimed by both. Most Kashmiris want an end to Indian rule and favor independence or a merger with Pakistan. –AP