Authorities relax curfew in Kashmir city; protests persist


SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Authorities lifted a curfew in most of Indian-controlled Kashmir’s main city Tuesday after a 17-day security lockdown, but shops and businesses remained shut due to a strike called to protest Indian rule in the Himalayan region.

Police and paramilitary soldiers removed steel barricades and layers of barbed wire from the roads in downtown Srinagar, the old quarters of the city, but hundreds of residents burned tires and chanted pro-freedom and anti-India slogans on the streets. Several mosques blared songs advocating Kashmir’s freedom from India.

Clashes erupted at least in three neighborhoods after police and paramilitary soldiers tried to stop protesters from marching in the streets, a police officer said.

Troops fired tear gas at the protesters who hurled rocks at them, the officer said, speaking on customary condition of anonymity.

At least two civilians were injured in the clashes.

The curfew remained in effect in areas of southern Kashmir where most of the deadly street protests erupted and later escalated around the disputed region. Kashmir’s largest anti-India street protests in recent years were sparked by the killing of top rebel commander Burhan Wani by government forces July 8.

Shops, businesses and schools remained closed in Srinagar as separatists have asked people to hold strikes and street protests until Friday. A break Tuesday was meant to let people stock up food and other essential supplies.

At least 49 civilians, mostly teenagers and young men, have been killed as government forces fired live ammunition and pellets. A policeman was killed after protesters pushed his vehicle into a river. About 2,000 civilians and 1,500 police and soldiers have been injured in the clashes.

Meanwhile, the Indian army said soldiers and police jointly killed four suspected militants in a gunbattle near the highly militarized Line of Control dividing Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

An army officer said the fighting erupted early Tuesday after troops spotted the militants in northwestern Nowgam sector. He said one militant was apprehended. The officer spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to reporters. There was no independent confirmation.

Kashmir, a predominantly Muslim region, is divided between India and Pakistan, but both claim it in its entirety. The rivals have fought two wars over control of Kashmir since independence from Britain in 1947.

India accuses Pakistan of arming and training Kashmiri rebels who have been fighting since 1989 for independence for Kashmir or its merger with Pakistan. Islamabad denies the charge, saying it provides political and diplomatic support to Kashmiris.

Most people in Indian Kashmir resent the presence of hundreds of thousands of Indian troops and support the rebel cause.

More than 68,000 people have been killed in the armed uprising against Indian rule and the subsequent military crackdown.

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