Kashmiri villagers shout pro-independence slogans during the funeral of Raja Bejum, 70, who was killed in clashes with Indian security forces in Langate near Handwara, April 13, 2016. (Photo by AFP)
The fourth protester has been killed in a series of violent clashes between Indian forces and the residents of Indian-administered Kashmir over the past 48 hours.
The youth, identified as Jehangir Ahmad Wani, was hit in the head by a tear gas shell fired by Indian troops to quell protests and died at a hospital in the northern village of Drugmulla, located about 95 kilometers from Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar.
The youth was among the hundreds of angry demonstrators who have been clashing with Indian forces for a second straight day across the Muslim-majority region.
The latest death brings the total number of Kashmiri protesters killed by Indian government forces over the past two days to four.
On Tuesday, witnesses said Indian soldiers opened fire on the protesters who had stormed an army bunker and set it on fire in the northern town of Handwara. Two protesters were shot dead on the spot and a woman working in a nearby field later died of a bullet wound.
The latest clashes come as Indian authorities have enforced a curfew in Srinagar, Handwara and neighboring villages. Shops and schools remained closed and streets were deserted as armed government forces patrolled the areas under curfew.
Indian paramilitary troopers stand guard on a street of closed shops during a one-day strike in Srinagar, Kashmir, April 12, 2016. (Photo by AFP)
The protests erupted following an allegation that an Indian army soldier had tried to sexually assault a local woman.
The army has expressed regret at the shootings and has ordered an inquiry into the allegation of sexual assault, saying in a statement that anyone found guilty “will be severely dealt with.”
Human rights groups, however, say such investigations rarely yield any concrete results and are often aimed at calming public anger.
Meanwhile, Kashmiri pro-independence leaders have called for a general strike on Thursday and anti-India
protests on Friday.
The New Delhi government has deployed large contingents of police and paramilitary troops to most parts of Srinagar and several other major cities to prevent street demonstrations.
Thousands of people have been killed in violence in Kashmir since the 1980s.
Kashmir lies at the heart of almost 69 years of hostility between India and Pakistan. Both neighbors claim the region in full but have partial control over it.
Islamabad and New Delhi have fought three wars, two of them over Kashmir, since their independence from British colonial rule in 1947.