Islamabad: Indian troops shot dead three stone-throwing protesters, including a teenage girl, in India-held Kashmir on Saturday as tensions rose ahead of the death anniversary of a popular freedom fighter.
Witnesses said soldiers opened fire in the southern district of Kulgam after hundreds of people angry at an army search operation for suspected militants gathered in protest, some hurling objects.
A government doctor said that the dead included two men aged 20 and 22 years and a 16-year-old girl.
“The three had bullet injuries and succumbed soon after their arrival at the hospital,” the doctor at a sub-district hospital in Kulgam said on condition of anonymity. Police chief S.P. Vaid confirmed the deaths.
The killings come on the eve of the second death anniversary of Burhan Wani, a charismatic 22-year-old freedom fighter killed by government forces two years ago on July 8.
Kashmiri leaders have called for a shutdown today to commemorate Wani’s death.
Wani’s killing has triggered a sustained wave of protests that have so far claimed the lives of at least 100 civilians, with last year the deadliest in the region for the past decade. Thousands of others were injured by shotgun pellets fired by the Indian army.
India has about 700,000 soldiers in the part of Kashmir it controls, where armed groups are fighting for independence or a merger with Pakistan.
Last month, the UN human rights chief released a report, calling for an investigation into alleged abuses perpetrated by Indian security forces in Kashmir.
Complete shutdown is being observed in Indian-occupied Kashmir to mark second death anniversary of Burhan Wani, Kashmir Media Service reported. The Indian forces imposed a curfew with thousands of Indian soldiers and police personnel deployed across IoK after Joint Resistance Leadership, comprising Syed Ali Gilani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Muhammad Yasin Malik, called for a march towards Wani’s hometown Tral on Sunday.
The Hurriyat leaders have been placed under house arrest in a bid to stop them from the march.
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The death of the 23-year-old, who had built up a big following on social media, sparked an outpouring of grief and anger that spilled into the streets and led to months of clashes with security forces. Nearly 100 people died in the months that followed and many more sustained serious eye injuries from the pellet guns used by government forces to quell the protests.
Wani changed the narrative of guerrilla warfare by mounting a challenge to the massive Indian security grid without concealing his identity. He appeared with his real name. Showed his presence in combat uniform from dense forests and lush green orchards in the south of IOK and ruled over the hearts of the young generation of Kashmir across the Line of Control (LoC).
Burhan joined the armed struggle in October 2010 after he was beaten by Indian troops along with his brother Khalid Muzaffar Wani, who was later killed by the Indian army in custody on April 13, 2015 for meeting Burhan in Tral forest. Since 2011, Burhan was popular on social media as a commander of the largest indigenous Kashmiri freedom fighters orgnaisation — Hizbul Mujahideen.