SRINAGAR: At least 11 protesters died as crowds angered by the killing of a militant clashed with armed police in Indian Kashmir on Saturday, torching buildings and blocking streets, security officials said.
Police sources told Reuters that demonstrators set fire to three police stations and two government buildings in towns south of Srinagar, and three officers had gone missing in the violence.
All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) chief Mirwaiz Umar Farooq accused police of using excessive force and questioned their version of events.
The protests erupted a day after security services shot dead Burhan Wani, a 22-year-old militant known for his calls to arms on social media. Photographs appeared to show thousands attending Wani’s funeral, despite restrictions on the movement of people and traffic.
Violent incidents of arson and stone pelting were reported from several parts of Indian Kashmir, according to additional director general of police SM Sahai.
Some of the crowds tried to enter security installations and managed to steal weapons from one police station that they used to shoot at officers, he said, putting the death count at eight. But two other officers said three more people had died from their injuries.
Sahai and the police sources said 96 security personnel had been injured during the day’s violence alongside, more than 60 protestors.
APHC head Farooq accused police of brutish tactics. “The intention of police and Indian armed forces is always to shoot to kill and not disperse mobs by using non-lethal means,” he said. He said that “maybe at one place the people attacked a police station”.
Farooq was one of a number of leaders that authorities placed under house detention after Wani’s death, and did not take part in any of the rallies.
Indian Kashmir’s former chief minister, Omar Abdullah, said Wani had now become a ‘new icon’ for disaffected people in the state. “Mark my words – Burhan’s ability to recruit into militancy from the grave will far outstrip anything he could have done on social media,” he said on Twitter.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 10th, 2016.