Violence flared in Indian Kashmir for a second day as 10 people — five rebels and five civilians were killed in the restive Himalayan region and dozens were injured during anti-Indian protests.
The rebels, who included a university professor, were killed in a gunbattle when police surrounded their hideout Sunday in Shopian district, south of Kashmir's summer capital, Srinagar. The civilians died when security forces fired tear gas and bullets to control a massive local crowd that turned out in the streets in a show of support for the militants.
The sociology professor, Mohammad Rafi Bhat, had joined the militant ranks just two days before, according to police. A senior official said they had brought the family of the professor to pressure him and the other rebels into surrendering, but they refused to do so despite repeated appeals.
Police said a top militant of the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, one of the groups fighting for Kashmir's independence, also died in the gun battle.
Sunday's violence comes after three militants and four civilians died Saturday in Srinagar.
Kashmir University has suspended classes for two days starting Monday to foil possible protests. A curfew was enforced and internet services were blocked Sunday in Srinagar.
The professor who had joined the militants has again turned the spotlight on the challenge that is confronting Indian authorities in Kashmir, a growing number of radicalized youth and educated people joining the ranks of militants fighting to free Kashmir from Indian control.
"A professor taking arms is unusual and it is worrying", said Radha Kumar, a writer and policy analyst who served as a government interlocutor in Kashmir some years ago.
Also worrying, say observers is the rising and open public support for separatist rebels, demonstrated by stone-pelting crowds that turn out in anti-Indian protests.
Analysts say New Delhi's failure to engage in a political dialogue in the restive region is fanning the anti-India sentiment.
The government has repeatedly said violence has to end before it can hold talks. But it signaled a slight softening in its stance when it appointed an an interlocutor for Kashmir in October.
But the renewed bouts of violence indicate there is no headway in returning peace to the region, say observers. "The main reason is lack of political process.There is no dialogue to resolve the political issues," says Radha Kumar." The rather strident counter anti-militancy activity they are undertaking is not in itself productive."
Officials say nearly 120 people have died in violence in Kashmir this year including 67 militants, 22 civilians, and 28 security personnel.
A separatist insurgency that flared in Kashmir in 1989 had quieted for nearly a decade, but since 2016 violence has been on the rise. The Himalayan region is divided between India and Pakistan.