16 hurt as protesters defy curfew in Indian-Occupied Kashmir

SRINAGAR, India – A clash between police in Kashmir and protesters who defied a curfew to demonstrate against the arrest of an anti-Indian separatist left 16 people injured Tuesday.

Masarat Alam, 44, who is known for his fiery denunciations of Delhi, was arrested by police on Monday in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian-administered Kashmir, after evading capture for four months.

Thousands of security forces Tuesday implemented a strict curfew in parts of Kashmir to try to pre-empt protests over Alam’s arrest.

Police said in northern Baramulla district dozens of protesters defied a curfew and clashed with police.

A police spokesman said “11 policemen, including three officers, and five protesters were injured during the clash”, adding that police fired teargas and rubber bullets to disperse the demonstrators, who retaliated by hurling stones.

The situation remained “by and large normal in other parts of Kashmir,” the spokesman said.

Alam had organised anti-India demonstrations in the Muslim-majority region which has been experienced rolling curfews and strikes since June 11, when a 17-year-old student was killed by a police teargas shell.

Since then, more than 110 protesters and bystanders have died.

Meanwhile, a 24-hour standoff between troops and an injured militant who was holed up inside a mosque ended Tuesday with the rebel’s death, police said.

Police said repeated attempts to persuade the militant to surrender had failed. He took refuge in the mosque early on Monday, having been injured in a gunbattle with Indian troops.

“He died of the injuries he had sustained during the encounter. The mosque was not stormed by the troops nor was any fire directed at the religious structure,” a police officer said, wishing to remain anonymous.

The gunbattle outside the mosque in the northern district of Bandipora had left one other militant dead.

Militants have occasionally taken shelter in Kashmiri mosques in the past, with security forces facing the risk of a public backlash in the state if they pursue them.

Separatist militants have been battling Indian rule since 1989 in Muslim-majority Kashmir. At least 47,000 people, more than a third of them civilians, have died in the conflict, according to official figures.

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