2 dead in Indian Kashmir protests after man hanged

SRINAGAR, India: Sporadic violence left two people dead in Indian-controlled Kashmirdespite a curfew that was extended into a third day Monday in the wake of the execution of a Kashmiri man convicted in a deadly 2001 attack on India’s Parliament.

Mohammed Afzal Guru was hanged in New Delhi early Saturday. Ahead of the execution, authorities ordered people in most of the Indian-held part of the disputed Kashmir region to remain indoors indefinitely in anticipation of anti-India protests.

Despite the curfew, hundreds of angry residents protested against Indian rule on Sunday and clashed with troops at dozens of places in the region.

In Watergam village near the town of Sopore, which was Guru’s home, at least four people were wounded, one critically, as police and paramilitary troops fired tear gas shells and bullets to disperse an angry crowd, police said.

One of the injured, 12-year-old Obaid Mushtaq, died early Monday, said Aijaz Mustafa, a medical superintendent at the S.K. Institute of Medical Sciences, a government hospital in Srinagar, the main city in Indian Kashmir. He said another 18-year-old boy was on life support.

Another young man died in Sumbal village in northern Kashmir on Sunday after he jumped into a frigid river while trying to run away from troops who were firing tear gas and using batons to disperse the protesters. Four policemen were injured in separate clashes.

Tens of thousands of security troops were fanned out across the Himalayan region, and metal barricades and razor wire blocked all major roads in the area.

Cable television and mobile Internet services were shut in most parts of the region and Kashmir’s nearly 60 newspapers were unable to publish.

Showkat Ahmed Motta, the editor of an English daily newspaper, Kashmir Reader, said that his paper published Sunday’s edition, but police seized the copies. “Police gave us verbal orders not to publish for four days,” he said.

A local police official denied that any newspapers were stopped from publishing, but said the strict curfew may have prevented copies of the papers from reaching readers. He declined to give his name.

Guru’s execution is an extremely sensitive matter in the Himalayan region, where most people believe his trial was not fair. Several rights groups across India, and political groups in Indian Kashmir, also questioned the fairness of his trial.

Anti-India sentiment runs deep in Muslim-majority Kashmir, which is divided between Hindu-dominated India and Muslim-majority Pakistan but is claimed by both nations.

Since 1989, an armed uprising and an ensuing crackdown in the region have killed an estimated 68,000 people, mostly civilians.

Guru confessed in TV interviews that he helped plot the attack on India’s Parliament that killed 14 people, including the five gunmen, but later denied any involvement and said he had been tortured into confessing.

Government prosecutors said Guru was a member of the Pakistan-based militant group, Jaish-e-Mohammed, a charge that Guru denied.

Guru had been on death row since first being convicted in 2002. Subsequent appeals in higher courts were rejected, and India’s Supreme Court set an execution date for October 2006. But his execution was delayed after his wife filed a mercy petition with India’s president. That petition, the last step in the judicial process, was turned down last week.

While Indian government officials said Guru’s family had been informed of his imminent execution by express mail, the family said it learned of it only through television news.

“I wish we were the ones authorized to give the news to the family — we owed him that much,” Omar Abdullah, Indian Kashmir’s top elected official, told CNN-IBN news channel on Sunday.

After the execution, Guru was buried in the prison compound.

The secrecy with which Guru’s execution was carried out was similar to the execution in November of Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving gunman of the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Kasab was buried in the western Indian prison where he was hanged.