Indian tourist killed by stone throwing protesters in Kashmir

AP, Srinagar

An Indian tourist was killed during a stone-throwing protest in Kashmir, officials said today, as the disputed region shut down for a third straight day following the killings of civilians and rebels during weekend gunbattles and anti-India protests.

The tourist, from India’s Tamil Nadu state, was critically wounded overnight when protesters pelted stones at the minibus he was traveling in on his way back from a tourist resort near western Narbal village, police said. The 22-year-old was shifted to a hospital in the region’s main city of Srinagar, where he succumbed to his injuries.

Separatists challenging India’s sovereignty over Kashmir and pro-India Kashmiri politicians condemned the incident.

The region’s top elected official, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, called the tourist’s death “sad and heartbreaking.”

Top separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said in a tweet that he was “deeply saddened.”

During the past few years, authorities have vigorously campaigned to lure Indian and international visitors to the region as a symbol of normalcy after decades of raging anti-India insurgency. However, repeated gunfights, anti-India protests, travel warnings by Western governments and extensive media coverage of the violence have adversely impacted tourism.

Shops, schools and businesses were shut again Tuesday to protest the killings of eight rebels and six civilians during anti-India protests and fighting with government forces over the weekend.

Police and paramilitary soldiers patrolled across the region and enforced a security lockdown in old parts of Srinagar, the urban heart of anti-India protests.

Internet on cellphones also remained suspended for the third straight day, a common practice by Indian authorities to make organizing protests more difficult.

India and Pakistan each administer part of Kashmir, but both claim it in its entirety. Rebels have been fighting Indian rule since 1989, demanding Indian-controlled Kashmir be made part of Pakistan or become an independent country.

In recent years, Kashmir has seen renewed rebel attacks and repeated public protests against Indian rule as a new generation of Kashmiri rebels, especially in the southern parts of the region, has revived the militancy and challenged New Delhi’s rule with guns and effective use of social media.

India accuses Pakistan of arming and training the rebels, a charge Pakistan denies.

Most Kashmiris support the rebel cause while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian control, marked by youths hurling stones at government forces.

Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.