India: Fresh protests continue in Kashmir

Srinagar, 13 August (AKI) - Protests continued in Indian-controlled Kashmir on Wednesday as people mourned the death of 14 Muslims who were shot by police on Tuesday.

Gunfire could be heard in the main city of Srinagar, as a large number of Indian police and army struggled to enforce a curfew.

A three-day mourning period has been called for the deaths of at least 21 people at the hands of Indian police and army this week.

On Tuesday, riots broke out after police clashed with 20,000 Muslim protesters who defied a curfew in the towns of Bandipora and Srinagar as they attempted to halt several Muslim demonstrations in restive Kashmir.

The town of Kishtwar near Kashmir, also witnessed unrest after a grenade explosion and police firing on a curfew-defying mob during which several private houses, shops and other property were burnt and plundered, forcing the authorities to call in the Army to enforce curfew.

Reports said activists of some right-wing groups allegedly torched shops and houses of the Muslim community, which retaliated by targeting a shop line owned by Hindu traders in similar fashion, reported Indian daily The Asian Age.

Several cars and petrol pumps, besides Muslim and Hindu property was also attacked by rival mobs, according to reports confirmed by local officials.

A probe into the incidents has been ordered by the district magistrate, according to the reports.

A 12-year-old domestic help was reportedly shot dead by unidentified assailants at point blank range.

The protest follow the killing on Monday of five Kashmiri protesters by Indian security forces. Prominent Kashmiri separatist leader Sheikh Abdul Aziz was among the victims.

The riots were sparked by a row over land that began in June when the state government said it would grant 40 hectares of land to a Hindu shrine board in the Kashmir valley.

Reportedly, the land handed over was being used for temporary accommodation for hundreds of thousands of Hindu pilgrims who visit the shrine every year located in a mountain cave.

The government later scrapped the measure after protests by the Muslim majority.

Muslims say that the decision was taken in order to alter the demographic balance in Indian-administered Kashmir, which is the country's only Muslim-majority state.

India and Pakistan both claim sovereignty over the entire region and have fought two wars over Kashmir. About 70 percent of the population is Muslim and the rest Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists.


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