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SRINAGAR, India – Government forces fired tear gas and used batons to quell thousands of anti-India protesters who turned violent Friday after Eid prayers at mosques in the Indian portion of Kashmir, police said.
The protesters, waving Pakistani and pro-militant flags and chanting pro-independence slogans, hurled stones at government forces who tried to stop them from marching in Srinagar and at least two other places in the region.
One person was critically injured after he was hit by a tear gas shell in Sopore, a town 50 kilometers (30 miles) northwest of Srinagar, the main city in the Indian portion of Kashmir, a police officer said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters.
Authorities tightened security and blocked all mobile and landline Internet services for two days to stop Muslim protesters from uploading pictures of animal sacrifices, especially the slaughtering of cows, which are worshipped by Hindus.
Tensions have been building in the region after a court two weeks ago upheld a colonial-era law banning the slaughtering of cows and the selling beef in the region, a decision resented by Muslims. The Jammu-Kashmir state government is likely to appeal the court ruling.
The 1932 law made the slaughter of cows punishable by up to 10 years' imprisonment and a fine. Indian authorities did not enforce the law for about seven decades.
Kashmir is mainly Muslim, while most people in the rest of India are Hindus.
Insurgent groups have been fighting for Kashmir's independence from India or its merger with neighboring Pakistan since 1989. More than 68,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed.
India accuses Pakistan of arming and training the rebels, a charge Pakistan denies.