Tension rises in disputed region after the death of a young shepherd who was killed in ‘cold blood’, says family.
The “cold-blooded” killing of a 26-year-old civilian has sparked fresh protests in Indian-administered Kashmir with Indian authorities placing certain areas under curfew and shutting down mobile internet service.
Saleem Malik was killed in the early hours of Thursday and family members told Al Jazeera he was shot dead without any provocation after the Indian soldiers suspected him of being a rebel.
“He heard some noise and went out to check on his sheep in the shed,” said 27-year-old Riyaz Ahmad, a relative of the slain civilian.
“He was shot dead without any reason. The army did not even fire a warning shot. It was a cold-blooded murder.”
Anti-India protests and clashes erupted in several places across the region following the murder of Malik who, a senior police official said, was killed in a “cross-fire”.
“There was a brief gunfight during the night and two militants fled. The house owner [Malik] was killed in the incident,” the official told Al Jazeera.
‘We want freedom’
Hundreds of people poured onto the streets at several places in downtown Srinagar, calling for the end of Indian rule. They chanted slogans like “go India, go back” and “we want freedom” as some of the residents barraged police and paramilitary soldiers with stones.
Government troops fired tear gas and shotgun pellets to quell the protests, while authorities restricted movement in old quarters of the city.
“Even the mourners were not spared. The forces fired tear gas at them,” said a resident Gulzar Ahmad.
“If there was a gun battle, how did the rebels manage to escape in the presence of a large number of forces. There was nothing. Malik was just killed like everyone else is killed in Kashmir.”
Anti-India sentiment runs deep into the Muslim-majority Kashmir region.
The region has witnessed renewed violence after 2016 when a popular rebel commander Burhan Wani was killed in a gunfight.
The two-decade-old armed struggle has now been mostly replaced by street protests, generating intermittent tensions in the region.
With additional reporting by Rifat Fareed in Srinagar