Peace broken in Kashmir as forces fire on protesters

Killing by security forces outside power station could reignite separatist unrest in disputed region

New Delhi

The fragile peace in India's disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir was broken yesterday when security forces opened fire on demonstrators protesting against electricity power shortages, killing a 25-year old man and injuring two others.

Anger has been spreading across the mountainous region, where temperatures have dropped to near freezing, since unusually heavy power cuts were imposed last month. Yesterday's demonstration was outside a power project at Uri near Boniyar, 90kms from the state's summer capital of Srinagar.

Members of the Central Industrial Security Force opened fire when a group of about 500 protesters marched towards the project's main gate. This is a central government force hired by the National Hydro Power Corporation and has little experience of handling the delicate situation in Kashmir, where there have been demands for some form of autonomy from India for over 60 years.

B R Sharma, the state's home secretary, said five CISF personnel, including a sub-inspector, had been arrested. "The incident could have been avoided if CISF men had co-ordination with state police," he said.

Street riots escalated in 2008, culminating in more than 100 civilians being killed in 2010. That cycle of violence was broken last summer, partly because Kashmir police and paramilitary forces were retrained to curb their previously heavy-handed tactics when dealing with usually young, stone-throwing rioters. But there is now a risk that the protests could be used by leaders of Kashmir's autonomy movement, and opposition political parties, to revive street demonstrations.

Last week police used tear and pepper gas to clear protesters who had burnt tyres and blocked a highway linking Srinagar to the winter capital of Jammu at Ganderbal, the constituency of Omar Abdullah, the state's chief minister. A government Power Development Department building was attacked in Srinagar. Demonstrations were also reported from districts across Kashmir and these are now expected to spread following yesterday's killing.

Under the new electricity schedule, power cuts of 72 to 96 hours a week have been imposed in many areas where usage is not metered, and 24 hours where new digital meters have been installed. However, residents are complaining that the cuts have been more extensive than the schedules – in some cases lasting for 15 hours – and that they are far more severe than in previous years.

Last Thursday, Mr Abdullah blamed the shortages partly on the sort of extensive theft of electricity that is widespread across India. "People should realise that by indulging in such acts they are making life miserable for others," he said. He responded to criticisms of the government from Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, a leading Muslim cleric who heads a pro-autonomy party, by asking him to "issue a fatwa against those who indulge in power theft".

Power distribution losses due to the poor network account for more than 58 per cent of the state's power generation, which amounts to only 758 megawatts compared with peak demand of more than 2,100 megawatts. During winters, local hydro power generation drops to around 300 megawatts because of reduced discharge from rivers and this winter the situation is more serious because of unusually dry weather.

Rising tensions: timeline

April 2011: More than 3,000 officers are trained in non-lethal methods of crowd control, including the use of water cannon and tear gas.

February 2011: A key highway is blocked by protesters over the death of a 21-year-old man at the hands of the army.

July 2010 The imposition of a curfew is followed by days of violent clashes that leave at least 25 protesters dead and dozens injured.

June 2010: Thousands march through Srinagar after a 17-year-old student was killed in the crossfire between protesters and police.

Rosie Scammell

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all