SRINAGAR - At least six people have been killed and scores injured in Jammu and Kashmir's Ramban district after clashes erupted between security forces and protesters accusing police of the desecration of Holy Qur'an and assault on worshippers during yesterday's night prayers.
Two dozen people have been injured in the clashes between the security forces and the protesters, a senior police officer told IANS news agency on Thursday, July 18.
Doctors at the hospital said that five of the injured had bullet injuries.
The unrest erupted at 5am on Thursday after protesters stormed a Border Security Force (BSF) camp in Gool town of Ramban district.
Protesters claimed that the BSF personnel attacked a mosque during taraweeh prayers last evening, beating up the imam and worshippers and desecrating the Holy Qur'an.
The guards at the camp fired at the protesters killing four of them and injuring two dozen others, police said.
Reacting to the news, protesters blocked the strategic Jammu-Srinagar national highway at some places.
In Srinagar, religious and separatist leaders called for a statewide shutdown in protest on Friday.
Tension had built up in Ramban, where the 76 BSF Battalion is deployed for the security of an under construction railway line, ominously since Wednesday night.
A local who did not want to be named said BSF personnel asked some people who had assembled in the local mosque to desist from late-night prayers.
Following heated exchanges, the people moved away. The brother of the moulvi of the mosque, Abdul Latif, however, started offering prayers at an unused bridge nearby, he told Hindustan Times.
There was an altercation between Abdul Latif and BSF personnel, who allegedly thrashed him.
Meanwhile, Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chairman Muhammad Yasin Malik was taken into preventive custody along with other supporters in Srinagar when they staged a protest in Maisuma area against the killings.
In a bid to calm Kashmiri Muslims, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde ordered an investigation into the death of protesters.
"I have ordered an inquiry to be conducted without any loss of time to ascertain the circumstances which led to the firing," Shinde said.
Expressing regret over the incident, Shinde appealed to the people to maintain peace.
"The loss of lives in this incident is particularly saddening and I offer my deep condolences to the bereaved families, he said.
"I assure that any use of excessive force or irresponsible action will be dealt with strictly.
I appeal to the people to maintain peace and allow normalcy to be restored."
Kashmir is divided into two parts and ruled by India and Pakistan, which have fought two of their three wars since the 1947 independence over the region.
Pakistan and the UN back the right of the Kashmir people for self-determination, an option opposed by New Delhi.
India and Pakistan have fought three wars since their independence in 1947, two of them over the Himalayan region of Kashmir.