SRINAGAR, India – Government forces opened fire on a funeral procession and a group of protesters in curfew-bound Indian-controlled Kashmir, killing three civilians and wounding at least 16 others, police and local residents said.
The deaths Saturday took the death toll from three months of civil unrest against Indian rule to more than 100.
Thousands of people in Anantnag, a town south of the main city of Srinagar, defied the curfew to participate in the funeral of a 17-year-old boy whose body was recovered from a river early Saturday.
Anantnag residents said the boy drowned when he was chased by paramilitary soldiers trying to break up an anti-India rally earlier in the week.
Police and paramilitary soldiers opened fire on the procession after some mourners tried to set fire to the house of a pro-India politician, a police officer said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. One civilian was killed, he said.
Three of the wounded were in critical condition, he said.
Residents of Anantnag denied attacking the politician’s home.
“It was an unprovoked firing. They are not even allowing funeral processions,” said Ghulam Nabi Nath, a local resident.
The police officer said the procession violated the nearly round-the-clock curfew.
Troops later fired on hundreds of stone-throwing protesters in Palhalan, a village north of Srinagar, killing two residents and wounding at least four others, said another police officer, who also spoke on condition of anonymity.
The officer said the protesters tried to block a highway.
Residents said the security forces entered the village and fired at a group of men near a mosque.
“We were peacefully protesting after offering prayers. They came and started firing into the crowd,” said Mohammed Ismail, a villager.
The killing sparked angry protests in the village as hundreds of men and women took to the streets and chanted “We want freedom.”
The Himalayan region has been rocked by widespread protests against Indian rule since June, with at least 102 people dying in clashes between protesters and paramilitary forces. With protests escalating over the past week, the government on Friday deployed the army for crowd control.
Anti-India sentiment runs deep in Kashmir, which is divided between nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan and claimed by both. The protesters are demanding independence for the mostly Muslim region from Hindu-dominated India or a merger with predominantly Muslim Pakistan.
Also Saturday, a young man wounded by police gunfire in clashes earlier in the week died in a hospital in Srinagar. Thousands joined his funeral procession through the city as police and paramilitary soldiers looked on.
Meanwhile, thousands of residents crowded markets in Srinagar after authorities for the first time in six days relaxed the curfew for seven hours in parts of the city.
“Not everything is available but we’re taking home whatever we can, particularly medicines and baby food,” said Firdous Hamid, a Srinagar resident.