14 Killed In Kashmir
13 September, 2010
At least 14 people across Indian Kashmir have been killed in protests against the Indian government and reports of Quran burning, in the most deadly day of violence since mass demonstrations against Indian rule began three months ago, Indian police say.
Despite a rigid curfew imposed across the region, tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets on Monday, throwing rocks, torching government buildings and chanting "Go India, go back. We want freedom.''
Security forces shot live ammunition at some of the crowds, killing people in at least five different villages, said a police officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak with media.
In the village of Tangmarg, troops fired on thousands of rock-throwing demonstrators, killing five people and wounding at least 50 others, the police officer said. Earlier, protesters burned at least four government buildings as well as a schoolhouse in the town.
In Budgam, troops tried to disperse demonstrators with tear gas and baton charges but began firing into the crowd after protesters attacked a police station and the government forces with rocks, the police officer said.
At least four people including a young woman were killed and at least 30 others were wounded, some critically, the officer said.
A policeman was also killed during the protests in Budgam after he was hit by a vehicle that then sped away, the officer said. At least four other protesters were killed in three other towns, he said.
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, the main separatist leader, told Al Jazeera there is no room for political protest in Kashmir.
"I have been under house arrest since Eid, many of my party have been arrested," Farooq said.
"In many places the protests are very peaceful ... [but Indian] troops are firing indiscriminately [at protesters]."
Alleged Quran burning
Monday's toll includes at least seven people killed in police clashes after thousands of Muslim protesters set fire to a Christian missionary school and government buildings in two Kashmiri districts to denounce reports on the Iranian state-run channel, Press TV, that copies of the Quran had been damaged in the US over the weekend.
Though a Florida pastor called off his plans to burn the Muslim holy book, the channel showed footage of a different man destroying a Quran.
The protesters chanted "Down with Quran desecrators,'' and protest leaders denounced the alleged desecration in speeches to the crowds.
The death toll was the highest since separatist protests broke out in June against Indian rule in the northern state.
Manmohan Singh, India's prime minister, said India was searching for a peaceful resolution to the summer of conflict.
"We are willing to talk to every person or group which abjures violence, within the framework of our constitution,'' Singh said.
Singh's statement came hours ahead of a meeting of top cabinet ministers that is expected to decide whether to lift the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which gives sweeping powers to security forces in Kashmir, as a goodwill gesture in parts of the territory that have been relatively peaceful.