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Curfew in Kashmir as anti-India protests pick up
SRINAGAR (Reuters) - Authorities imposed a curfew in Srinagar on Thursday to thwart anti-India protests that have grown in the past week, pointing to possible increasing trouble in the region after a period of relative calm.
If the government does not find a way to check the protests, they could hurt efforts to improve relations with Pakistan and weaken the ruling coalition's efforts to reach out to moderate separatists.
But it also must take care not to undermine its own efforts reach out to moderate separatists to secure peace in the region.
"The situation is reflective of the deep rooted resentment and discontent (against India), and unfortunately New Delhi has not been making any serious and bold attempts in addressing it," said Noor Ahmad Baba, dean of social sciences at Kashmir University.
"If not seriously addressed, the situation may get seriously out of hand today, tomorrow or sometime in the immediate future."
The killing of a teenager by police earlier this week triggered demonstrations that have evolved into wider anti-India protests, similar to huge street protests seen in 2008 that embarrassed New Delhi.
The teenager's death was the fifth in the past month that locals have blamed on government forces.
"New Delhi is pushing the people towards violence and Kashmir has been turned into a police state," senior separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said in a statement.
At least 400 people have been injured in pitched street battles between government forces and large groups of rock-pelting Muslim protesters over the past three days.
On Thursday, thousands of police and soldiers in riot gear patrolled deserted streets, erected barricades and warned residents to stay indoors in Srinagar, Kashmir's summer capital.
"We have imposed restrictions in the whole of the city to protect the life and property of the people," said Mehraj Ahmad Kakroo, a senior government official.
Although Kashmir seldom goes more than a few days without incident, the protests come after a period of relative calm during which the region voted in a new government, and amid speculation New Delhi could be holding secret peace talks with Farooq and other Kashmiri separatist leaders.
The rise in tension in Kashmir, which India and Pakistan claim in full but rule in part, comes at a sensitive time, coinciding with a spike in border skirmishes and violence by militant groups, most of them Pakistan-based.
In fresh violence in the past 24 hours, Indian soldiers shot dead three militants, including two senior members of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group, in fierce gun battles, police said.
Officials say more than 47,000 people have been killed since simmering discontent against Indian rule broke out in 1989.
(Editing by Krittivas Mukherjee and Jerry Norton)
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