Security blitz, strike break calm in Indian Kashmir

An Indian paramilitary soldier on guard in Srinagar

(AFP) – July 18, 2010

SRINAGAR, India — A security lockdown and a general strike called by separatists crippled life in Indian-ruled Kashmir on Sunday after a brief calm returned to the region on Saturday.

Thousands of police and paramilitary forces moved into the streets of Srinagar, Indian Kashmir’s summer capital, early Sunday warning residents not to venture out of their homes.

Police said there was no official curfew in place but were enforcing “strict restrictions” to prevent violent protests.

The scenic Himalayan region has been wracked by demonstrations since June 11 when police were accused of killing a 17-year-old teenage boy.

Since then, another 14 protesters and bystanders — many of them youngsters — have been killed.

The fresh tensions came after a brief lull in violence across the Kashmir valley on Saturday, following calls by separatists to resume “normal” life.

Schools, shops and offices reopened in the Muslim-majority valley for the day after being shut by weeks of anti-India protests.

Shoppers flooded the streets to stockpile supplies ahead of Sunday’s general strike, which witnesses said crippled life across the valley. More protests are planned over coming days.

In Baramulla, a town in the north, an undeclared curfew was also in force after violent protests erupted over the death of a boy.

The boy jumped into a river that flows down to Pakistan-ruled Kashmir and drowned after police allegedly chased stone-throwing protesters Friday evening, residents and local newspaper reports said.

“The body has not been recovered yet. We are investigating,” a police officer told AFP, asking not to be named.

The anti-India insurgency in the part of Kashmir governed by New Delhi has claimed an estimated 47,000 lives.

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