Kashmir protests turn deadly after hanging in New Delhi

The execution of Mohammed Afzal Guru has agitated Indian-controlled Kashmir. He was convicted for involvement in an attack on India's Parliament; many Kashmiris think he was innocent.

Mansi Thapliyal/Reuters
Demonstrators shout slogans during a protest to condemn the hanging of Mohammad Afzal Guru in New Delhi February 9. India hanged a Kashmiri militant on Saturday for an attack on the country's parliament in 2001. Security forces, anticipating protests in response to the execution, imposed a curfew in parts of Kashmir and ordered people off the streets. Protesters clashed with police, leading to one death.

One person was killed as protests broke out in at least two parts of Indian-controlled Kashmir on Sunday despite a strict curfew to prevent violence after 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.

On Sunday, scores of people defied the curfew and clashed with troops who fired tear gas shells to disperse the crowds, a police officer said on customary condition of anonymity. Police said a man died in Sumbal village in northern Kashmir 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 mob.

In Watergam, a 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. Four policemen were injured in separate clashes. Police said 23 troops and 13 protesters were injured in demonstrations on Saturday.

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 down in most parts of the region, and most local newspapers were not available Sunday.

Greater Kashmir, an English language newspaper, said on its website that police went to the printing presses of most local newspapers and asked managers not to publish Sunday editions.

Editor: Police seized newspapers

Showkat Ahmed Motta, the editor of another English daily, Kashmir Reader, said that his paper published Sunday's edition, but that police seized the copies.

A top 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.

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 have 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 in the region and an ensuing crackdown 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 that Guru was a member of the Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed, a charge Guru denied.

Guru had been on death row since first being convicted in 2002. Subsequent appeals in higher courts were also 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.

Family mailed notice, but hears on TV

While Indian government officials said that 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.

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