A policeman fires a teargas shell during a clash between protesters and police in Jammu yesterday.
A town in the south of Jammu and Kashmir was under curfew for a second day yesterday after two people were killed and dozens wounded in Hindu-Muslim clashes, police said.
Stores and buildings were torched in the clashes on Friday, which erupted in Kishtwar town, 150km southeast of Kashmir’s summer capital Srinagar after prayers marking the end of Ramadan.
The violence broke out when several hundred Muslims staged a march and shouted slogans attacking India and shouting “We want freedom” and were attacked by Hindus who objected to the demonstration.
“Two people died in the clashes and 23 were injured. An indefinite curfew is in force,” Inspector General of Police Rajesh Kumar said.
Rebel groups have been battling Indian forces since 1989 for the territory to be made independent or tied to Pakistan, in a conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians.
Despite the protests and clashes, thousands of Muslims, visited mosques, shrines and prayer grounds to mark Eid al-Fitr - the end of the holy month of fasting.
Authorities rushed hundreds of federal paramilitary troops to the area after hours of rioting.
Kishtwar residents alleged members of the Village Defence Committees, controversial semi-official local groups drawn mostly from the Hindu community and armed by the government to fight the militants in their areas, used weapons during Friday’s clashes.
A police official, who wished to remain anonymous, said authorities were looking into the allegations.
Kishtwar is the hometown and the assembly constituency represented by Sajad Kitchloo of the ruling National Conference (NC).
Kitchloo is the minister of state for Home. He had come to his home in connection with the Eid celebrations when the communal riots broke out.
In a late-night reshuffle, Basheer Ahmad Khan was named the new district magistrate, and Sanjay Kotwal as the superintendent of police of Kishtwar.
Ashok Prasad, the state director general of police (DGP), Suresh Kumar, commissioner (home) and P L Gupta, additional DGP are camping in Kishtwar to supervise the restoration of law and order.
Shops and businesses remained shut in Srinagar in response to a strike over the clashes called by a top separatist leader, Syed Ali Geelani, who had called for “peaceful protests” following what he branded as “state terrorism” after Eid prayers.
More than 30 people, including 20 security forces, were hurt in Srinagar during the clashes.
Meanwhile, shops and other businesses remained shut in Jammu, Kashmir’s winter capital, in response to a shutdown called by the Bharatiya Janata Party.
In New Delhi, at least 300 people protested outside the Jammu and Kashmir House over the indefinite curfew in Kishtwar.
As the protest by activists of the BJP and Bajrang Dal turned violent, police used water cannons to disperse them.
“Initially the protest was peaceful, but later it turned violent. So, the police had to use water cannons to stop them,” said a police officer.
He said the situation was under control.
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