SRINAGAR, India – Security forces fired warning shots and tear gas to quell protests in restive Indian-controlled Kashmir on Wednesday, after prayers marking a Muslim festival led to street demonstrations against Indian rule.
Clashes erupted after police and paramilitary soldiers stopped hundreds of protesters chanting "Go India, go back" and "We want freedom." The demonstrators marched after Eid al-Adha prayers in Srinagar, the disputed region's main city, said a police officer on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Protesters hurled stones and bricks at security forces in downtown Srinagar, the officer said. No casualties were immediately reported.
Anti-India sentiment runs deep in Kashmir, a Muslim majority region where more than a dozen rebel groups have fought for independence or its merger with neighboring Pakistan since 1989. More than 68,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed.
Since June, Kashmir has been rocked by violent anti-India protests and crackdowns by government forces that have killed at least 111 people — mostly teenage boys and young men in their 20s.
Muslims the world over are celebrating Eid al-Adha, or the feast of the sacrifice. The three-day holiday involves slaughter of sheep and cattle in remembrance of Abraham's near-sacrifice of his son.
In another protest in the southern town of Anantnag, hundreds of demonstrators clashed with security forces and torched a police vehicle after being stopped from holding a pro-independence rally, said another police officer also speaking on condition of anonymity.
Clashes between protesters and troops were also reported from several other towns, but there were no reports of casualties.
India and Pakistan have fought two wars for control over the Himalayan region since they won independence from Britain in 1947.