Demonstrators marking the first anniversary of the death of militant leader Burhan Wani gathered in Srinagar in the Jammu and Kashmir region under a heavy security presence on Saturday, July 8. Violent clashes broke out between the police and protesters in downtown Srinagar. Security forces fired tear gas at demonstrators who were throwing stones at the officers. The police have also surrounded Wani’s hometown of Tral to prevent any large groups from entering the town. Additional violence may occur in the coming days.
In a separate incident, at least seven people were killed by cross-border shelling between Pakistani and Indian troops along the Line of Control. Officials from Pakistan said five people were killed on their side of the border, while two people died in Indian controlled territory.
Indian officials shut down internet in the Kashmir region on Friday, July 7, prior to the start of the demonstrations. Wani was a former commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen militant group. He was killed by security forces outside his home on July 8, 2016. A number of separatist groups called for protests on Saturday, including hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, more moderate Awami Action Committee Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, and Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) leader Yasin Malik. These leaders have instructed people to carry out a “complete shutdown” of the Kashmir region on July 8, to visit the homes of slain separatist militants on July 9, and to protest on social media on July 11.
Kashmir's security forces have been under increased pressure in recent months as militants have stepped up attacks on police and military troops. Armed clashes between protesters who oppose Indian rule and government forces have also become more frequent since the killing of Wani by security forces on July 8, 2016, which sparked widespread unrest in which more than 100 people were killed. Tensions were stoked again in late May 2017 after Sazar Ahmad Bhat, another former leader of the Hizbul Mujahideen, was killed during a security operation. Violent anti-India protests took place throughout the region in reaction to his death.Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the end of British rule in 1947. Both claim the territory in its entirety.
As a reminder, some foreign governments advise against travel to parts of Jammu and Kashmir state, in particular the border region with Pakistan, due to the high threat of terrorism and other violence.