Clashes in Kashmir as India police fire tear gas during protests

It was the third day of protests and general strikes called by anti-India separatists.

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SRINAGAR // Clashes erupted in the main city in Indian-controlled Kashmir on Wednesday after authorities blocked pro-independence protesters from marching to a UN office to commemorate the anniversary of a separatist leader’s execution 31 years ago.

It was the third day of protests and general strikes called by anti-India separatists. They were protesting the hanging of Mohammed Maqbool Butt in 1984 for killing an Indian intelligence officer, as well the anniversary on Monday of another execution two years ago in New Delhi.

Police fired tear gas to break up the latest protest after scores of Jammu-Kashmir Liberation Front activists defied a curfew and assembled in the main business district of Srinagar.

The activists – chanting “We want freedom” and “Return the mortal remains of Mohammed Maqbool Butt” – responded by throwing stones at the police and paramilitary soldiers.

Kashmiris were incensed in 2013 when a former Kashmiri rebel, Mohammed Afzal Guru, was hanged in secret in a New Delhi jail. Many in the mostly Muslim territory believe Guru was not given a fair trial on charges of involvement in a 2001 attack on parliament that killed 14 people, including five gunmen.

The separatists want the remains of both Guru and Butt, now buried at the New Delhi jail, to be returned to Kashmir for burial.

Police said at least eight activists were detained. More than 100 anti-India activists remained in custody after being detained over the weekend as part of efforts to control the expected protests.

Shops and businesses were closed for a third day across Srinagar, where authorities imposed a curfew in the old quarters and government forces patrolled deserted streets. University exams were cancelled on Tuesday and Wednesday. One civilian was killed and another critically injured in Monday’s protests.

Anti-India separatists have long demanded the Himalayan region be given independence or be merged with neighbouring Pakistan.

India and Pakistan each administer a portion of Kashmir, but both claim the region in its entirety.

Since 1989 an estimated 68,000 people have been killed in an armed uprising and ensuing Indian crackdown.

* Associated Press