SRINAGAR: Angry residents clashed with police in India-held Kashmir Wednesday, one day after three civilians were killed when soldiers fired on protesters incensed by the alleged molestation of a teenage schoolgirl.
Soldiers fired at the protesters on Tuesday as they stormed an army bunker and set it on fire in the northern town of Handwara, near the de facto border dividing Kashmir between India and Pakistan, police and witnesses said.
Two protesters were shot dead and a woman working in a nearby field later died of a bullet wound. Another injured protester was in critical condition in hospital, said India-held Kashmir’s director general of police K Rajendra.
Police said a 70-year-old woman, who was hit by gunfire and was among a dozen injured during massive clashes between local residents and government forces on Tuesday, died in a hospital Wednesday.
“We imposed restrictions in the old town of Srinagar and in Handwara to prevent violence,” Rajendra told AFP.
Police Inspector-General Syed Javaid Mujtaba Gillani said the soldiers fired at protesters when they tried to torch their bunker.
The two men killed on Tuesday have not been buried yet, while the woman’s last rites were performed amid pro-freedom and anti-India slogans.
“She was working in her orchard four kilometers away from the protest site. The soldiers came and shot her. It’s a plain murder,” said villager Ghulam Mohammed Shah.
Shortly after her burial, clashes erupted as villagers defied the curfew and hurled rocks at government forces who responded by firing tear gas.
The army has expressed regret at the shootings and ordered an inquiry, saying in a statement that anyone found guilty “would be dealt with”.
The incident is likely to heighten tensions in the region where locals resent the large Indian troop presence due to alleged human rights abuses. Troops enjoy immunity from prosecution in civilian courts unless specifically permitted by New Delhi.
Kashmir’s new Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti warned the shootings would have a “negative impact” on her government’s efforts to promote peace in the region.