SRINAGAR, India – SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Police opened fire with live rounds at rock-throwing Kashmiris on Monday, killing an 11-year-old boy and sparking violent street protests by thousands in India's portion of the troubled Himalayan region, a police officer said. At least 22 people were wounded in firing.
More than 60 people have died in anti-India demonstrations and clashes between security forces and protesters in the volatile region since June. Anger against Indian rule runs deep in Kashmir, which is divided between Hindu-majority India and predominantly Muslim Pakistan, though claimed by both nuclear-armed nations in its entirety.
Security forces fired tear gas and gunshots Monday in the southern town of Anantnag, where hundreds of residents held protests and clashed with police, a police officer said on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to talk to reporters.
The 11-year-old boy was killed and 15 people were injured in the shooting, the officer said.
As the news of the young boy's death spread in the area, thousands of people, including those living in neighboring towns and villages, held angry street protests, forcing government forces to retreat from the troubled spot, the officer said.
Also, fierce clashes between government forces and the protesters erupted in the neighboring town of Pulwama, police said.
Residents attacked a police station with rocks and government forces fired to quell the protest. At least two people were critically wounded in the firing, the officer said.
Earlier, police opened fire in Srinagar after residents in Indian Kashmir's main city attacked them with stones, injuring five people, the officer said.
However, local resident Hanief Ahmed said the shooting was unprovoked and officers targeted a group of men playing a board game outside. "There was no protest and police fired at them without any reason," Ahmed told The Associated Press.
Hundreds of people defied a curfew in Srinagar to demonstrate against Monday's shooting, chanting "Go India! Go back" and "We want freedom." Police also fired tear gas to disperse the crowd.
The demonstrations that started in June are reminiscent of the late 1980s when protests against New Delhi's rule sparked an armed conflict that has killed more than 68,000 people, mostly civilians. The latest deadly unrest against Indian authority shows no signs of abating despite the deployment of thousands of troops.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has questioned crowd-control tactics employed by security forces in Kashmir and ordered officials to use non-lethal measures to control demonstrations.
The protests in Kashmir have to be dealt with using "non-lethal, yet effective and more focused measures," Singh said last week.
Thousands of Kashmiri Muslims peacefully protested against Indian rule at several other places in the region after noon prayers at mosques. Protesters reject Indian sovereignty over Kashmir and want to form a separate country, or merge with Pakistan.
(This version CORRECTS Updates with more clashes; corrects the age of young boy to 11.)