SRINAGAR, India: At least nine protesters died as crowds angered by the killing of a separatist militant clashed with armed police in India’s Jammu and Kashmir state on Saturday, torching buildings and blocking streets, officials said.
Demonstrators set fire to three police stations and two government buildings in towns south of the state’s summer capital of Srinagar and dozens were injured on both sides, said two police sources not authorised to talk to the press.
Three police had gone missing in the violence, and officers were forced to fire tear gas at the crowds and shoot their guns, said additional director general of Jammu and Kashmir police, S. M. Sahai.
Protests erupted a day after security services shot dead Burhan Wani, a 22-year-old militant known for his calls to arms on social media and leader of Hizb-ul Mujahideen, one of a number of groups fighting Indian control of the Muslim-majority region.
The shoot-out came amid a rise in violence and separatist sentiment across the state, which has been at the centre of a strategic tussle between India and Pakistan for decades.
Photographs appeared to show thousands attending Wani’s funeral in his hometown of Tral, about 40 km (25 miles) south of Srinagar, despite restrictions on the movement of people and traffic ordered the night before.
Jammu and Kashmir’s former chief minister, Omar Abdullah, said Wani had now become a “new icon” for disaffected people in the state.
“Mark my words – Burhan’s ability to recruit into militancy from the grave will far outstrip anything he could have done on social media,” Abdullah said on Twitter.
Shops, banks and other offices were closed in Srinagar, as paramilitary troops patrolled the streets outside.
Police said they halted traffic on the main highway connecting the state to the rest of India and officials said train services had been temporarily halted in the area.
Mobile Internet services were blocked across some parts of the state and cell phone service was interrupted in others.
Wani, the son of a school headmaster, regularly posted video messages online, dressed in military fatigues and inviting young men to join his jihad.
Separatist political leaders have called for a strike and three days of mourning.