Fifteen people were killed and over 100 injured as the police and army fired on angry, curfew-defying crowds in 20 locations across the state on Tuesday. In Delhi, the union government called a second all-party meeting in five days in another bid to control the explosive situation.
<b1>Thirteen of the deaths occurred in the Kashmir valley where thousands poured into the streets, ignoring the curfew imposed, to mourn the death of Shaikh Abdul Aziz, the separatist leader who was killed in firing by security forces on Monday. Two other people were killed in Jammu, where the situation turned rapidly communal, with Hindus and Muslims clashing in several towns, burning each other's shops and houses.
Over 50,000 people, some from faraway towns, converged in Srinagar to offer burial prayers for Shaikh Aziz. Large crowds surrounded the policemen deployed outside the houses of separatist leaders Syed Ali Geelani and Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, both of whom were under house arrest, rendering the police helpless. Both leaders, at the urging of the crowd, walked out free and led processions to Aziz's grave.
Four people were killed in firing at different localities of Srinagar, three at Lasjan on Srinagar's outskirts, three more at Bandipora and one in Ganderbal. Two more, injured in the firing at Chahal near Uri town on Monday, during which Aziz was killed, died in hospital on Tuesday.
The valley's initial anger over the alleged economic blockade enforced by Jammu's agitators, protesting against the cancellation of the transfer of land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board, appeared to be rapidly transforming into an upsurge seeking separation from India. Separatists leaders, sidelined in recent times, were once again sought after.
Slogans attacking the government and openly seeking independence, rent the air once again. "It is not a protest against land transfer, this is anger against India," said Pakiza Dar, a college teacher.
Meanwhile, police opened fire in Jammu as well killing two people, following a series of communal clashes in Poonch, Rajouri and Kishtwar districts.
At the all-party meeting, leaders of all political parties impressed upon the centre to "act fast" in resolving the Kashmir crisis, but no concrete decisions were reached.
(With Arun Joshi in Srinagar, Aurangzeb Naqshbandi in Delhi and agencies)