SRINAGAR, India – Police opened fire Friday on hundreds of rioting Hindus, angry over a recent government decision to not transfer land to a shrine in Indian Kashmir, police said. Two people were killed.
The two protesters died in a hospital in Jammu city after sustaining bullet injuries during the protest, said Ramesh Kumar, a police officer. Four people were also wounded and were in serious condition, he said.
Last month, the government in Jammu, India's only Muslim-majority state, decided to award about 100 acres of land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board, a trust that maintains the Amarnath shrine, a revered Hindu site.
The state government was forced to revoke that order after a week of often violent protests, in which six people were killed and hundreds wounded, by Muslim Kashmiris who denounced the move as an attempt to build Hindu settlements in the area and alter the demographics in the state.
But the cancellation set off protests by Hindus on Friday.
Kumar said police fired into the crowd after they were besieged by rock-throwing, angry protesters at Samba, a town on the outskirts of Jammu city. At least five policemen were also wounded during the clashes.
Earlier Friday, police had fired warning shots and tear gas to disperse hundreds of rioting protesters who had torched a police post, Kumar said. At least two policemen were injured in that clash.
"In order to stop the situation getting fully out of control, the government has finally imposed curfew in the city," he said.
The Amarnath shrine is a cave that houses a large icicle revered by Hindus as an incarnation of the Lord Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction and regeneration. Hundreds of thousands of Hindus are currently visiting the cave on an annual pilgrimage.
About a dozen rebel groups in the state have been fighting Indian government forces to carve out a separate homeland or to merge Jammu-Kashmir with Pakistan.
More than 68,000 people, most of them civilians, have been killed since the start of the rebellion in 1989.