SRINAGAR, INDIA // Paramilitary forces fired warning shots to disperse thousands of people taking part in a funeral procession today that defied a curfew in Indian Kashmir. Police said that one person was killed and at least 16 people were injured in continuing protests across the region. Soldiers also used tear gas and batons to push back people defying the indefinite curfew in Sopore, a town 55 kilometres northwest of Srinagar, Indian Kashmir's main city.
They were in a procession to bury Bilal Ahmed Wani, 22, who was shot dead a day earlier during street demonstrations, said Farooq Ahmed, a senior police officer. Residents have accused security forces of fatally shooting three people in Sopore since Friday. Mr Wani was killed on Sunday when paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) opened fire on hundreds of people who took to the streets to protest the killing of two people on Friday. The protesters blamed the soldiers for the killings and police imposed an indefinite curfew after the strife on Friday. Six people were also injured in the protests in and around Sopore.
There were no other details on the protester who was killed today. "We're investigating whether the CRPF fired live ammunition, or the death occurred due to a tear gas shell," said Mr Ahmed of Wani's death. Ali Mohammed Sagar, Indian Kashmir's law minister, said Mr Wani died in the CRPF firing and called it "totally unwarranted". Clashes also erupted on the outskirts of Srinagar as thousands of people started a march from the city to Sopore town and 10 people were injured, said a police official.
About 10km north of Srinagar, government forces intercepted the rally with barricades, baton charges, tear gas shells and firing in the air, eyewitnesses and police said. Intense clashes followed and police had to retreat after protesters retaliated by hurling rocks and damaging police vehicles, said Suhail Ahmed Bhat, a local resident. A doctor at a Srinagar hospital said two people were admitted with critical injuries.
Meanwhile, riot police also tried to prevent thousands of people from travelling to Sopore from neighbouring towns to participate in the funeral procession and protests called by separatist groups. In old parts of Srinagar, thousands of people poured into streets chanting: "Go, India go back" and "We want freedom". Authorities closed schools for two days and postponed university examinations. Shops and businesses were also closed and public buses stayed off the roads across much of the Indian portion of Kashmir today.
"We'll not allow the march to Sopore and we're closely monitoring the situation," said Mr Ahmed. The region has witnessed several protests against Indian rule over the past two weeks triggered by recent killings blamed on government forces.