SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Indian authorities on Wednesday imposed a curfew in parts of Kashmir to stop fresh anti-India demonstrations following the death of three people from Indian army gunfire and a general strike called by Kashmiris in protest.
Shops and schools were closed and streets deserted as government forces carrying automatic rifles patrolled the curfew-bound areas of Srinagar, Handwara and neighborhoods.
Police said a 70-year-old woman, who was hit by gunfire and was among a dozen injured during massive clashes between local residents and government forces on Tuesday, died in a hospital Wednesday. Two others also died from army gunfire.
The protest and clashes in northern town of Handwara erupted Tuesday following an allegation by local residents that an Indian army soldier tried to sexually assault a teenage schoolgirl in Handwara. The army ordered a probe into the accusation.
Police Inspector-General Syed Javaid Mujtaba Gillani alleged that the soldiers fired at protesters when they tried to torch their bunker.
The two men killed on Tuesday have not been buried yet, while the woman’s last rites were performed amid pro-freedom and anti-India slogans.
“She was working in her orchard four kilometers (2 miles) away from the protest site. The soldiers came and shot her. It’s a plain murder,” said villager Ghulam Mohammed Shah.
Shortly after her burial, clashes erupted as villagers defied the curfew and hurled rocks at government forces who responded by firing tear gas.
Anti-India sentiment runs deep among the mostly Muslim population of Kashmir and human rights groups have long accused the Indian military of using rape and sexual molestation to oppress the local population.
Kashmir has been split between Indian and Pakistani control since the British colonialists left in 1947, but claimed in full by both.
Rebel groups have been fighting since 1989 for independence from India or the Indian portion’s merger with Pakistan. More than 68,000 people, most of them civilians, have been killed in the armed uprising and subsequent Indian crackdown.