At least 14 people, including a policeman, were killed and 60 injured in one of the fiercest street fights in the Kashmir Valley on Monday even as the Centre was debating steps to help Kashmir calm down.
As a Tehran-based television channel, Press TV, showed clips of the Quran being torn in the US, all hell broke loose, with mobs running amok all over the state, torching several government buildings and a private Christian missionary school.
While five deaths were confirmed in Tangmarg in north Kashmir, five died in Budgam in central Kashmir and one each in Charar-e-Sharif in central Kashmir, Bandipore in north Kashmir and Pampore in Pulwama in south Kashmir.
State home secretary S.S. Kapoor said, "We believe the violence resulted from the report beamed by Press TV. The illegal channel — since it is not registered with the information and broadcasting ministry — has been banned in Kashmir."
Later, the government banned all local TV channels. The trouble began on Monday morning with hundreds of protesters hit the streets in Budgam.
Soon, violence spread, taking the death toll in the 93-day-long unrest since June 11 reached 84.
Confirming the number of deaths, state police chief Kuldeep Khoda accused an All Parties Hurriyat Conference leader Imtiaz Haider – who has not been arrested yet – of instigating the mob in Budgam.
In north Kashmir's Tangmarg area in Baramulla district, protesters set afire Tyndale Biscoe, a branch of a Christian missionary school, four government buildings and a police vehicle. Another missionary school, Good Shepherd, was burnt in Pulwama.
US Ambassador Timothy J. Roemer expressed dismay over the violence, following reports of "a misguided individual desecrating the Quran". He said in New Delhi: "It was an act of one individual."
Moderate and hard-line Hurriyat chairmen Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq have urged people to "maintain calm and not to over-react" over the reported Quran burning incident.