Massive anti-India protests and clashes erupted in Indian-held Kashmir hours after a top commander from the largest rebel group in the disputed region was killed in a gun battle with government forces on Saturday.
Indian forces on Saturday killed eleven Kashmiri youth, including Sabzar Ahmad Bhat, the successor of rebel commander Burhan Wani.
Sources and villagers in Baramulla and Pulwana districts of Indian-held Himalayan Valley said Sabzar, a freedom fighter who commanded the Kashmiri youth, along with his two associates were first arrested on Saturday night and then killed in custody.
The Indian army claimed that the youth were killed in encounters with troops.
In the latest crackdown, eight freedom fighters were killed in Rampur and Uri areas of district Baramulla and three others, including Sabzar, in village Saimaoh Tral in Pulwama district of IOK.
People in Tral and Pulwama who were protesting against rising Indian state terrorism were dispersed by pellets and tear-gas shells.
The residents of Saimoh said the forces also destroyed two residential houses. They said the troops also went berserk and broke windowpanes of mosques and residential houses.
According to news agencies reports, as the news of the rebel leader’s killing spread in the region, thousands of people, including students, took to the streets shouting “Go India, go back” and “We want freedom”. Traders shuttered shops and businesses across the Kashmir Valley, including in Srinagar. Officials said clashes were reported from over four dozen places in the region.
Police said hundreds of villagers tried to break the cordon by throwing rocks at security forces, resulting in clashes that left at least 10 injured.
Authorities suspended most internet services in the region a day after they lifted a monthlong ban on 22 social networking sites, including Facebook and Twitter. The social media ban on April 26 came after videos depicting the alleged abuse of Kashmiris by Indian forces fueled widespread protests.
Bhat succeeded charismatic militant leader Burhan Wani after he was killed in a gunfight in July, which triggered months of anti-India protests in which nearly 100 people died.
Wani’s popularity grew after he used social media to attract new recruits for his militant outfit.
On Saturday, in a separate incident, the Indian army said they had killed six militants who had infiltrated across the border from Pakistan in the Himalayan region.
Anti-India sentiment runs deep in the predominantly Muslim Kashmir valley, one of the world’s most heavily militarised areas, where most people favour independence or a merger with Pakistan.
Several armed rebel groups are fighting against Indian rule, with tens of thousands of people, most of them civilians, killed in the nearly three decades-old conflict.