SRINAGAR, India — Neighborhood residents say the armored vehicle drove wildly into a crowd of anti-India protesters in Kashmir’s largest city, slamming into a half-dozen people and crushing one man beneath its wheels, injuring him critically.
Officials say that’s nonsense, and that the vehicle was surrounded by a crowd of angry young men, some of whom fell beneath the jeep-like car when they tried to pull the soldiers out and lynch them. “It was a situation created by the crowd. We showed extreme restraint,” said Sanjay Sharma, a spokesman for the paramilitary force involved.
A police officer offered a third version. The vehicle, he said, accidentally strayed into an area crowded with protesters, then struck some people when the nervous driver realized what had happened and tried to get quickly away.
“It was a mistake,” said the police officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to comment.
An AP photographer captured the horror in a series of photographs, though even he couldn’t see how everything transpired.
Protesters regularly spill into the streets of Srinagar after Friday prayer services, demanding an end to New Delhi’s rule over Indian-controlled Kashmir.
The protests were largely peaceful Friday, with government forces hanging back after the previous week, when over 50 people were injured in fierce clashes.
“Police and soldiers were standing at a safe distance from the crowd, avoiding confrontation. And then from nowhere this vehicle ran into the crowd,” said resident Reyaz Ahmed.
The vehicle rocked back and forth for about 30 seconds when a man was caught beneath it, finally driving away from the furious crowd. He was hospitalized in critical condition. It was not immediately clear if he was a protester or onlooker.
Anti-India sentiment runs deep in Kashmir, a disputed Himalayan territory divided between nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan but claimed by both in its entirety. In recent years, the Indian-controlled portion has seen renewed rebel attacks and repeated public protests against Indian rule.
Rebels have been fighting Indian control since 1989, demanding that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.
India accuses Pakistan of arming and training the rebels, a charge Pakistan denies.
Most Kashmiris support the rebels’ cause while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian control. Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.
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