Four people have been killed in troubled Indian-controlled Kashmir, and at least 15 more injured on Tuesday as hundreds clashed with government troops during anti-India protests, police said. A police official, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, said that government troops fired live ammunition and used pellet guns to control the stone throwing and slogan chanting crowds in Aripanthan village, west of the area’s main city Srinagar.
Three of the injured are in critical condition, police said. Locals and officials say government forces stopped hundreds of villagers from chanting slogans against Indian rule in Aripanthan village and clashes erupted as troops fired tear gas and shotgun pellets to quell the protests. As the clashes intensified, troops fired live bullets at the protesters. News of killings brought thousands of others from neighboring villages into the streets chanting “Go India, go back” and “We want freedom.” The Himalayan region has been extremely tense for almost six weeks since government troops shot and killed a popular rebel leader.
Tuesday’s killings take the death toll in the recent weeks of protests to 63, including two policemen. Thousands more have been injured. The region is divided between India and Pakistan and claimed in entirety by both. Anti-India feelings run strong in Muslim-majority Indian-Kashmir, where most people favor independence or a merger with Pakistan. India accuses Pakistan of arming and training Kashmiri rebels who have been fighting for independence or for a merger with Pakistan since 1989. Pakistan denies the charge, saying it provides only moral and political support. More than 68,000 people have been killed since rebel groups began fighting Indian forces in 1989 and in a subsequent Indian military crackdown.