SRINAGAR, India – SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Government forces fired live ammunition to stop a protest march in Indian-held Kashmir on Thursday, killing one person and wounding at least 15, pushing the death toll from two months of civil unrest to 49.
India's portion of the divided Himalayan region has been wracked by weeks of clashes between rock-throwing Kashmiri protesters who have set official buildings and vehicles ablaze, and paramilitary police using guns and tear gas in an effort to contain the large anti-India crowds.
Clashes erupted in several areas Thursday. Security forces fired live ammunition and tear gas to stop the march by over 100 protesters to the southern town of Pulwama, killing one person and wounding at least 15, a police officer said on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to media. Four of the wounded were hospitalized in critical condition.
Some police and soldiers were also injured in subsequent clashes, he said.
Also Thursday, hundreds of men and women took part in his funeral procession of a 50-year-old man who died from his injuries after a bullet had strayed into his home during earlier unrest in the region's main city of Srinagar. Police responded by firing warning shots and tear gas at the mourners.
The recent unrest in the Himalayan region is reminiscent of the late 1980s, when protests against New Delhi's rule sparked an armed conflict that has since claimed 68,000 lives, mostly civilians. Thousands of residents across the volatile region have ignored "shoot on sight" orders imposed by the state administration and a round-the-clock curfew.
Before the shooting at Pulwama, thousands of Kashmiri Muslims chanting independence slogans and carrying black-and-green flags marched through the nearby town of Kakpora where a young man was killed Monday.
Meanwhile, Prabhakar Tripathi, a spokesman for the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force, said 300 members of a Rapid Action Force, specially trained to control violent mobs, reached Srinagar and were deployed Thursday.
The federal government has also sent nearly 2,000 additional paramilitary troops to Kashmir, Tripathi said.
On Wednesday, India's Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram appealed for an end to the violence in Kashmir, and said the government was ready for dialogue with the Kashmiri people.
Muslim-majority Kashmir is divided between predominantly Hindu India and Muslim-majority Pakistan but is claimed in its entirety by both. Separatist politicians and militants in Kashmir reject Indian sovereignty over the region and want to carve out a separate homeland or merge with Pakistan.