Anti-India protests on Monday triggered clashes between students and government forces in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, as authorities reopened schools after a weeklong suspension of classes.
Government forces used tear gas and water cannons to stop students from marching in the main commercial area in Srinagar, the key city in Indian-controlled Kashmir.
The students retaliated by hurling rocks and breaching the barricades set up by police and paramilitary soldiers. They chanted “Go India, go back” and “We want freedom.” Some students were reportedly injured in the clashes.
With residents joining the students, the clashes with government forces spilled to main streets in the city’s main commercial center of Lal Chowk. Shopkeepers downed their shutters and many bystanders took refuge inside.
Troops later fired live ammunition in the air to quell the spiraling protests.
Tensions between Kashmiri students and Indian law enforcement have escalated since April 15, when government forces raided a college in Pulwama, about 30 kilometers (20 miles) south of Srinagar, to scare anti-India activists.
Hundreds of students protested and clashes left at least 50 students injured. Authorities didn’t say what they were looking for in that raid.
On April 17, another round of student protests across the region left more than 100 students and an unknown number of police officers injured. Authorities responded by closing colleges, universities and some high schools for a week, but the protests continued unabated.
Also Monday, suspected rebels shot and killed a pro-India politician, Abdul Gani, near the town of Pulwama, police said. Gani belonged to the People’s Democratic Party, which is ruling the region in coalition with India’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janta Party.
India and Pakistan each administer a portion of Kashmir, but both claim the Himalayan territory in its entirety. Most people in the Indian-controlled portion favor independence or a merger with Pakistan.
Since 1989, rebel groups have been fighting government forces. About 70,000 people have been killed in the rebel uprising and a subsequent Indian military crackdown. India and Pakistan have fought two wars over control of Kashmir.
Rebel groups have largely been suppressed by Indian forces in recent years. However, public opposition to Indian rule remains deep and is now principally expressed through street protests marked by youths hurling stones at government forces.