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Strike, security lockdown shuts Indian Kashmir

May 1, 2014

SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Parts of Indian-controlled Kashmir remained under curfew Thursday, while general strikes were being staged in other areas after government forces fatally shot a man during an anti-India protest.

Government forces drove through neighborhoods in old quarters of Srinagar, the main city in the disputed Himalayan region, and ordered residents to stay indoors early Thursday. Shops and businesses also were closed after separatists who reject India’s sovereignty ordered a strike.

Thousands of police and paramilitary soldiers in riot gear and carrying automatic rifles patrolled streets to stop any protests.

However, clashes erupted in the towns of Bandipora and Budgam as scores of people chanting slogans “We want freedom” and “Down with India” threw rocks at police on Thursday, a police officer said, speaking on customary condition of anonymity.

Troops fired tear gas to quell the protests, the officer said. No one was reported injured.

Tensions are high in Kashmir as India holds a general election, which is being held in phases over several weeks.

Authorities have rounded up the region’s top separatist leaders along with nearly 700 students and activists in a bid to prevent protests or violence during the voting. But the crackdown has not stopped anti-India demonstrations and clashes.

On Wednesday, a 26-year-old man was killed and two other wounded as government forces fired at the rock-throwing protesters after voting ended in Srinagar, police said.

Kashmir has been wracked for decades by a conflict stemming from a large restive population that wants to either secede from India or join Pakistan. Both India and Pakistan claim the region in its entirety, although it is divided between them.

Kashmiri separatists demand either independence from Hindu-majority India or a merger with Muslim-majority Pakistan. About 68,000 people have been killed since 1989 in an armed uprising and Indian military crackdown. While the armed rebellion has largely been suppressed, anti-India resentment still runs deep and is mainly expressed through street protests.

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