Indian Kashmir Shuts Down To Protest Death Of Teenage Boy Killed By Police Tear Gas Shell2 February 2010
The Canadian Press
New Delhi: Police fired warning shots and lobbed tear gas Tuesday to disperse hundreds of rock-throwing protesters angered by the death of a teenage boy hit by a police tear gas shell in Indian Kashmir, an official said. At least two paramilitary bunkers were damaged in the clashes in Srinagar, the main city in Indian Kashmir, and 46 protesters and 20 troops were injured in daylong clashes across the region, a police officer said on condition of anonymity in keeping with department policy. One of the injured protesters was hit by a rubber bullet and was in surgery, he said. On Sunday, 14-year-old Wamiq Farooq was struck on the head by a tear gas shell fired by police just after a protest against Indian rule ended. Police later said the officer who fired the tear gas had been suspended for 'a callous and irresponsible action.' Shops, businesses and government offices were closed and public buses stayed off the roads across Kashmir on Tuesday during a strike by the region's main separatist alliance. Protests and clashes also were reported in four other major towns in Kashmir as hundreds of people took to streets to denounce the teenager's killing. Thousands of police and paramilitary soldiers were on patrol and manning road checkpoints. Hemant Lohia, a top police officer, said troops have been ordered to 'exercise maximum restraint' and police fired live ammunition only to 'scare away' the protesters. He did not give further details. On Monday, hundreds of protesters clashed with government forces in Srinagar. Police and paramilitary soldiers again used tear gas to quell those protests, and at least 17 protesters and eight soldiers were injured, police said. Kashmir, which is predominantly Muslim, is divided between India and Pakistan and claimed by both in its entirety. Anti-India sentiment runs deep in the Himalayan region, where more than a dozen rebel groups have been fighting for Kashmir's independence from India or its merger with neighbouring Pakistan since 1989. More than 68,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the uprising and the subsequent Indian crackdown.