Thousands of Indian police and troops enforced a lockdown Wednesday (2) in parts of Kashmir, fearing violent reprisals a day after a top militant commander and two civilians were killed in clashes in the disputed Himalayan territory.
Residents in the old quarters of Srinagar, the main city in Indian-administered Kashmir, were ordered to stay indoors and obey the curfew as government forces patrolled streets lined with steel barriers and razor wire.
“I was not allowed by soldiers to leave home for work. They are right outside my door,” Gulzar Ahmed, a mechanic, said by phone from his house in downtown Srinagar.
Schools and colleges were ordered shut for a second day to try to avert student protests against Indian rule, which frequently erupt into stone-throwing and clashes with troops.
Shops and banks also remained shut after three top Kashmiri separatist leaders called for a strike following the death of Abu Dujana, a senior rebel fighter from the Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
His death, heralded by Indian forces as “a major achievement”, sparked protests and clashes with government forces across the Kashmir Valley during which a young man was killed and scores injured.
A second protester died in hospital Wednesday. His funeral was attended by hundreds of mourners who pelted Indian soldiers with stones and chanted slogans calling for independence, witnesses said.
Dujana’s death has dealt one of the biggest blows to Kashmiri separatists since a charismatic young commander, Burhan Wani, was shot dead in July last year.
Wani’s killing sparked months of widespread protests against Indian rule and left nearly 100 civilians dead and thousands injured.
Since then protesters – sometimes entire villages – have increasingly taken to the streets, hurling stones at soldiers to help militants evade capture or death.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947. Both claim the Himalayan territory in full.
Militant groups, including LeT, have for decades fought roughly 500,000 Indian soldiers deployed in the territory, demanding independence or merger with Pakistan.
Tens of thousands, mostly civilians, have died in the fighting.