SRINAGAR, India — Indian forces on Monday fought Kashmiri demonstrators in street battles that killed 15 people — including one police officer — in the deadliest day in a summer of violence challenging Indian rule in the disputed territory.
Reports of a Koran desecration in the United States intensified the anger, with activists chanting "Down with America" and burning an effigy of President Barack Obama in a rare anti-US protest here.The spasm of violence Monday came even as Indian officials debated whether to make goodwill gestures to try to ease tensions in the war-wracked region, which is divided between India and Pakistan and fully claimed by both.
Since 1989, a violent, separatist insurgency and the ensuing crackdown by Indian forces have killed an estimated 68,000 people. Although the armed rebellion is largely suppressed, the region remains heavily militarized, with checkpoints along main roads, hundreds of thousands of troops stationed here and harsh emergency laws still in force, creating further friction with the restive population.
In the past three summers, the mainly Muslim protesters have taken to the streets to throw stones and demand that the Himalayan region be given independence from Hindu-dominated India or be allowed to merge with predominantly Muslim Pakistan.