SRINAGAR, India — Tens of thousands of troops enforced a rigid curfew in India’s portion of Kashmir on Tuesday, wary of violent demonstrations after the deaths of four protesters who were shot dead by security forces.
The mostly Muslim Kashmir region has been roiled by anti-government demonstrations and clashes between protesters and government forces for the past three months. Monday’s deaths brought to 69 the number of people killed in the civil unrest against rule from predominantly Hindu India.
The streets of Srinagar, Indian-held Kashmir’s main city, and other towns were deserted Tuesday with soldiers in riot gear turning out in full force.
On Monday, four people, including two teenage boys, were killed when security forces fired live ammunition into crowds to disperse rock-throwing protesters in Palhalan, a village north of Srinagar, police said.
That led to more protests, with local residents saying there was no clash and that soldiers opened fire on a peaceful protest without provocation.
Anti-India sentiment runs deep in Kashmir, which is divided between India and Pakistan and claimed by both in its entirety. Protesters reject Indian sovereignty over Kashmir and want independence, or a merger with predominantly Muslim Pakistan.
The recent unrest is reminiscent of the late 1980s, when protests against New Delhi’s rule sparked an armed conflict that has killed more than 68,000 people, mostly civilians.
The state government ordered a probe into Monday’s shooting. In the past, human rights groups have denounced such investigations as weak moves to calm public anger.
Demonstrations against Indian rule continued until early Tuesday with tens of thousand of Kashmiris chanting, “Go India, go back” and “We want freedom.” Angry protesters attacked police stations with rocks and petrol bombs, a police officer said.
Troops fired warning shots and tear gas to quell the protests, he said. At least 14 people were wounded in the clashes. The police officer spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters.
Armoured vehicles patrolled the streets Tuesday and government forces used barbed-wire barricades to seal off public squares and neighbourhoods in Srinagar.