Two killed in fresh clashes in Kashmir

SRINAGAR Fri Sep 17, 2010 3:19pm IST

A man walks at a deserted road during a curfew in Srinagar September 17, 2010. REUTERS/Danish Ismail

A man walks at a deserted road during a curfew in Srinagar September 17, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Danish Ismail

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SRINAGAR (Reuters) - Troops shot dead two people in fresh clashes with stone-throwing demonstrators in Kashmir on Friday as the army appealed to separatists to withdraw plans to protest outside army garrisons next week.

One of Kashmir's main separatist leaders, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, has called for "peaceful sit-in protests" on Tuesday outside army camps across Kashmir, sparking fears of more violence in a three-month long uprising in one of the world's most militarised regions.

More than 90 people have been killed in a summer of protests in Kashmir, fuelling anti-India anger in the Muslim-majority valley.

India has hundreds of thousands of soldiers in Kashmir but it has largely stayed away from quelling protests, leaving that to the police. The army is mainly involved in protecting the border with Pakistan and in battling separatist militants.

"This is a deliberate attempt ... to embroil the Indian army in the present situation," army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel J. S. Brar told reporters late on Thursday.

"The sit-in protests have never been peaceful ... I would appeal to the Hurriyat (the separatist grouping) to call off its call."

The 80-year-old Geelani has emerged as the leading face of the ongoing anti-India demonstrations and he is seen as a hardliner by the Indian government.

The death toll so far includes children, women and teenagers, nearly all killed by police bullets.

Hours after the army statement troops shot dead two protesters and wounded at least eight. Hundreds of stone-throwing protesters defied curfew in west and north Kashmir and clashed with police and troops, police said.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, faced with criticism of not dealing with the protests seriously, held a meeting with the government and opposition parties on Wednesday, but all it decided was to send a delegation of politicians to Kashmir.

"It seems both Srinagar and New Delhi are clueless, there is no end to the violence. Indians should act sincerely before it is too late," Mohammad Shafi, a former Kashmiri lawmaker, said.

Militancy has waned over the years in Kashmir, while the tactic of mass street protests, often organised through Facebook, You Tube and mobile phones, has grown.

Stone-pelting protesters, mostly teenagers, battle security forces daily and have set on fire government offices and police stations. Children stay cooped up in homes.

The continuing cycle of strikes and curfews has shut down schools, colleges and offices, stopped newspapers from being printed, and made food and medicine scarce.

(For more news, visit Reuters India)

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