South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

SRINAGAR, India – Kashmiris shut down shops and businesses Wednesday in a general strike to protest a man’s death in police custody in the Indian-controlled portion of the disputed Himalayan region.

At least three clashes broke out between government forces and rock-throwing protesters in the main city of Srinagar, but police managed to disperse the crowds and no injuries were reported, police said.

Public transport stayed off the road and government offices were sparsely staffed.

Separatists called the strike to protest the death Sunday of a 28-year-old man just hours after he was picked up for questioning in connection with an unsolved murder.

Police have registered the man’s death as its own murder case and suspended three officers, but have not revealed the cause of his death in Sopore, a town 35 miles (55 kilometers) northwest of Srinagar.

The man’s family alleged he died while being tortured. Protests and clashes since then have virtually shut down Sopore and the nearby town of Baramulla.

The government ordered an investigation, which separatist leaders rejected as likely to be biased if run by Indian officials.

Human rights groups say authorities routinely order probes to calm public anger in Kashmir, where anti-India sentiment runs deep.

The region is split between India and Pakistan, while claimed in full by both countries.

Rebel groups in the Indian-ruled portion have been fighting since 1989 for independence or merger with Pakistan. More than 68,000 people, most civilians, have been killed in the armed uprising and subsequent Indian crackdowns.