GOVERNMENT forces fired tear gas and used batons to quell thousands of anti-India protesters who turned violent yesterday after Eid prayers at mosques in the Indian portion of Kashmir.
The protesters, waving Pakistani and pro-militant flags and chanting pro-independence slogans, hurled stones at government forces who tried to stop them from marching in Srinagar and at least two other places in the region.
One person was critically injured after he was hit by a tear gas shell in Sopore, a town 30 miles northwest of Srinagar, the main city in the Indian portion of Kashmir, a police officer said.
Authorities tightened security and blocked all mobile and landline internet services for two days to stop Muslim protesters from uploading pictures of animal sacrifices, especially the slaughtering of cows, which are worshipped by Hindus.
The youth in groups started pelting stones at police and paramilitary forces in many areas of the city after Eid prayers, police said, adding they were chased away by the security forces.
Clashes were reported from Eidgah, Rajouri, Kadal and some other areas of downtown Srinagar and at a few places in Anantnag district, a police officer said.
He said the forces used tear smoke shells to disperse the protesting youths.
Two journalists were injured in clashes at Eidgah, the officer said, adding the rest of the Kashmir valley witnessed peaceful Eid prayers.
Flags of Pakistan and militant group Al-Jehad were also waved by some youths in some areas of downtown Srinagar, he said.
Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Yasin Malik, Sabhir Shah and many other separatist leaders were put under house arrest, the officer said, adding the decision to impose restriction on their movement was taken in view of the law and order problems.
Tensions have been building in the region after a court two weeks ago upheld a colonial-era law banning the slaughtering of cows and the selling beef in the region, a decision resented by Muslims. The Jammu-Kashmir state government is likely to appeal the court ruling.
The 1932 law made the slaughter of cows punishable by up to ten years’ imprisonment and a fine. Indian authorities did not enforce the law for about seven decades.
Kashmir is mainly Muslim, while most people in the rest of India are Hindus.
Insurgent groups have been fighting for Kashmir’s independence from India or its merger with neighbouring Pakistan since 1989. More than 68,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed.