SRINAGAR, India:Government forces blocked roads with barbed wire and steel barricades in Indian-controlled Kashmir on Friday to prevent a march by separatists to a village where troops killed four civilians and injured 15 others earlier this week.
Tens of thousands of government forces patrolled the region, fearing anti-India protests after afternoon prayers in the mostly Muslim region. A strict curfew and a series of communication blackouts have failed to stop six weeks of protests, even as residents have struggled to cope with shortages of food, medicine and other necessities.
Shops, businesses and schools have remained closed because of the security lockdown and protest strikes since the killing of a popular rebel commander on July 8 that sparked some of Kashmir’s largest protests against Indian rule in recent years.
Local volunteers have engaged in a massive effort to get food and medicine to people in besieged neighborhoods, delivering items mostly at night. The volunteers have also run free community kitchens at almost all major hospitals in Srinagar and other towns for the injured and their attendants.
At least 63 civilians have been killed and thousands injured, mostly by government forces firing bullets and shotgun pellets at rock-throwing protesters. Two policemen have also been killed and hundreds of government forces have been injured in the clashes.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and claimed in entirety by both. Most Kashmiris want an end to Indian rule and favor independence or a merger with Pakistan.
In Islamabad, Foreign Ministry spokesman Nafees Zakaria said Pakistan’s prime minister has written to the U.N. Human Rights Commissioner in Geneva urging him to send a fact-finding mission to investigate “grave human rights violations in the Indian-occupied Kashmir.”
On Thursday, an ambulance driver was injured when a paramilitary soldier fired at him as he drove through Srinagar’s downtown with an emergency patient onboard, police said.
He managed to drive to a hospital where he was admitted, police said.
More than 100 ambulances have been damaged in the last six weeks while ferrying injured people to hospitals. Drivers and rights groups have blamed both government forces and protesters for attacking them.
More than 68,000 people have been killed since rebel groups began fighting Indian forces in 1989 and in the subsequent Indian military crackdown. India accuses Pakistan of arming and training rebels, a charge Islamabad denies.