Indian security forces crack down on protesters after violent demonstrations

Indian police patrolled the streets of Kashmir, threatening to shoot anyone defying a round-the-clock curfew a day after at least 19 people died in battles between troops and protesters in the disputed region.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 14, 2010; 2:07 PM

NEW DELHI - Thousands of Indian security forces fanned out across Kashmir on Tuesday, announcing over loudspeakers that they would shoot anyone defying a curfew imposed a day after 18 people were killed in clashes between police and protesters.

Demonstrations in the disputed Himalayan region erupted Monday amid reports that a Koran had been desecrated in the United States. But they quickly turned into anti-Indian protests, the latest in a summer of violent demonstrations against the Indian military presence.

The stone-pelting intifada-like street revolt has been the most serious crisis in Kashmir in decades. At least 88 people, mostly teenage boys, have been killed.

The violence has turned a once-prosperous region into a locked-down war zone, with Indian security forces posted in bunkers on nearly every street and education, health care and business at a standstill.

Despite the curfew, hundreds of protesters took to the streets Tuesday. Security forces responded by firing live ammunition and tear gas to disperse them, police said. At least 14 people were wounded, according to police, bringing the number of injured since Monday to at least 145.

Civilians reported that the curfew was the strictest in memory and that many residents were not allowed out for medical care or to buy food.

"There is a shortage of blood. We are trying to organize blood drives . . . but whoever is coming out - even if they are doctors - are being beaten and harassed," Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, a moderate Muslim leader, said in a telephone interview. "The sad part is that all summer, people were being killed for expressing political sentiment. Now they are killed for expressing their religious sentiments. It seems the answer to their sentiments is just bullets."

The latest deaths come at a time when diplomatic efforts remain stalled to help calm Kashmir, created with the partition of mostly Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan and fought over by both countries.

In the Indian capital of New Delhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh scheduled an all-party meeting Wednesday to discuss decreasing the powers of the armed forces in some districts of the region as a step toward regaining what he has described as a "trust deficit."

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