SRINAGAR  -  Indian police fired tear gas and chilli spray grenades to disperse thousands of mourners taking part in a funeral procession for a youth who died on Saturday after being run over by an Indian paramilitary vehicle in Indian-occupied Kashmir.

The authorities have imposed a curfew in parts of Srinagar and blocked internet services.

Friday’s incident happened during protests against alleged Indian police heavy-handedness in a raid during Ramazan on a city mosque they consider to be a hotbed of militants.

Security forces said the police were defending themselves from attack, but some local people said they deliberately drove into the crowd.

Graphic images have been circulating on social media of the young man’s face as the paramilitary jeep drives over him.

The incident comes just days before Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh is expected to visit the state. On Saturday, shops and businesses were largely closed and there was a heavy security presence on the streets.

Protesters hurled back stones at Indian security forces in the latest outbreak of violence in the divided region’s main city, Srinagar. At least four demonstrators were injured, according to police and eyewitnesses.

“There were some incidents of stone pelting in downtown but our (policemen) exhibited restraint and used minimum force,” Kashmir police inspector general SP Pani told AFP.

Kaiser Bhat, 21, died in hospital after being hit by a Central Reserve Paramilitary Force vehicle near the city’s Central Mosque on Friday during a demonstration against alleged police violence.

According to AFP, the video that allegedly shows the armoured vehicle hitting protesters has been widely shared on social media. It shows scores of protesters throwing rocks at a lone vehicle as it races towards a crowd. Other images show two youths under the vehicle, one crying for help. It was unclear whether the victims were protesters or bystanders.

Officials said the driver has been charged with dangerous driving, while two other youths hit by the vehicle were still being treated.

“We have taken a strong note of yesterday’s incident and will take strict action,” SP Vaid, director general of Kashmir police, told AFP.

Authorities cut mobile internet services and put reinforced patrols on the streets Saturday, while Kashmiri groups opposed to Indian rule called for a general strike.

Last month another protester was killed by a police armoured vehicle in Srinagar. Police initially denied involvement in the death until a video - shot on a mobile phone - showed the vehicle hitting the man.

Bouts of street protests have rocked the region for months, with almost daily incidents of clashes between government forces and protesters.

Friday’s protest erupted in response to clashes last week between police and protesters near the Central Mosque that left nearly 50 people injured. Devotees alleged the police fired tear gas and shotgun pellets inside the mosque.

Militants have also upped their attacks on Indian troops after New Delhi ordered a 30-day halt to its military operations in the Muslim-majority region for Ramazan. Militants have rejected the offer.

Suspected militants hurled grenades at government forces at three separate locations in Srinagar, leaving four paramilitary troopers and two civilians wounded in the explosions.

Three similar attacks were carried out on Friday in Srinagar and southern Anantnag district. One of the targets was a ruling party lawmaker.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947 but both countries claim the territory in full.

India has about 500,000 soldiers in the part of Kashmir it controls, where scores of armed groups are fighting for independence or a merger with Pakistan. Hundreds of thousands, mainly civilians, have been killed in the violence since 1989.

 

Agencies/Monitoring Desk