Reuters | Fri Jul 30, 2010 | 8:13pm IST
Police on Friday fired at thousands of people protesting against Indian rule in Kashmir, killing two demonstrators, officials said, in the latest flare-up of violence in the disputed Himalayan region. At least 19 people, mostly stone-throwing protesters, have been killed by security forces over the last six weeks, when Muslim-majority Kashmir has seen the largest pro-independence demonstrations in two years.
The violence has led the authorities to impose an on-and-off curfew in parts of Kashmir, at the core of a dispute between India and Pakistan, which both claim it in full but rule it in part. "Police in Sopore opened fire on agitated mobs indulging in heavy stone pelting. Two protesters were killed," police official Mohammad Shafi said refering to a town 48 km (30 miles) north of Srinagar. At least 50 people including 25 policemen were wounded across Kashmir during the protests, where thousands of residents took to the streets chanting: "We want freedom! Go India! Go back!" Authorities reimposed a curfew in the capital Srinagar after noon Muslim prayers and deployed thousands of security forces, who blocked off lanes with razor wire and iron barricades.
While locals say the protests are spontaneous, India has blamed separatists and Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan-based militant group, for fomenting the latest violence. Peace in Kashmir is seen as crucial for improving relations between New Delhi and Islamabad, who are trying to revive peace talks that were halted after India blamed Pakistan-based militants for the 2008 Mumbai attacks. The spiralling violence had the government briefly call in the army into Srinagar for the first time in nearly two decades to enforce calm.