SRINAGAR, INDIA - A security clampdown and a strike sponsored by separatists fighting against Indian rule shut most of Indian-administered Kashmir on Sunday, a day after chaotic protests and fighting killed seven civilians and four combatants in the disputed region.
Armed police and paramilitary soldiers in riot gear fanned out across the region in anticipation of anti-India protests and clashes. Shops and businesses closed in other areas with no security restrictions.
At least seven civilians were killed and over three dozen injured Saturday when government forces fired at anti-India protesters following a gunbattle that left three rebels and a soldier dead.
Residents accused troops of directly spraying gunfire into the crowds. Police said in a statement that they regretted the killings but that the protesters had come “dangerously close” to the fighting.
Separatists who challenge India’s sovereignty over Kashmir said the killings were part of India’s state policy and called for three days of mourning and a general shutdown in Kashmir.
Authorities stopped train services and cut cellphone internet in Srinagar and other restive towns, and reduced connection speeds in other parts of the Kashmir Valley, a common government tactic to prevent anti-India demonstrations from being organized and stop dissemination of protest videos by Kashmiris.
Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan each administer part of Kashmir, but both claim it in its entirety. Rebels have been fighting Indian control since 1989.
The killings of the seven civilians and three rebels angered Kashmiris who deeply resent Indian rule and support rebel cause that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.
In recent years, mainly young Kashmiris have displayed open solidarity with the rebels and sought to protect them by engaging troops in street clashes during India’s counterinsurgency operations despite repeated warnings from the Indian authorities.
Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.