SRINAGAR, India: Government forces fired at protesters Tuesday in Indian-occupied Kashmir, killing a teenage boy and wounding at least 120 more who had been trying to reach the site of a gunbattle in which soldiers killed two freedom fighters, police and residents said.
Hundreds of villagers, shouting slogans eulogizing freedom fighters and demanding an end to Indian rule over the disputed region, threw stones at Indian troops in a bid to help freedom fighters who were trapped in a civilian home in a neighborhood of southern Shopian area, police said. Counterinsurgency police and soldiers cordoned the area following intelligence that freedom fighters were hiding there, police said.
As the freedom fighters and soldiers fought, government forces also fired bullets, shotgun pellets and tear gas at the protesters who tried to reach the gunbattle site. At least 120 civilians were injured in the clashes, medics said. One among the four critically injured later died in a hospital.
Officials said two freedom fighters were martyred and a military officer and a second soldier were injured in the fighting.
Local residents said soldiers blasted two civilian homes with explosives as the combatants exchanged gunfire.
Most Kashmiris support the freedom fighters’ cause while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian control. In recent years, mainly young Kashmiris have displayed open solidarity with freedom fighters and sought to protect them by engaging troops in street clashes during military operations.
Kashmir has also seen renewed freedom fighter attacks and repeated public protests against illegal Indian rule in last few years as a new generation of Kashmiri freedom fighters, especially in the southern parts of the region, has revived the freedom struggle and challenged New Delhi’s rule with guns and deceptive propaganda social media.
India and Pakistan each administer part of Kashmir, but both claim it in its entirety. Freedom fighters have been fighting Indian control since 1989, demanding that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.
India accuses Pakistan of arming and training the freedom fighters, a charge Pakistan denies.
Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military violence.
Modified from “The Associated Press”