Indian-occupied Kashmir completely shutdown on Wednesday after a general strike was called by pro-independence groups against the killing of four men in the town of Sopore .
Shops, markets and schools remained closed and public transport stayed off the roads as All Parties Hurriyat Conference chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Hurriyat Conference leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq Sahab called for a statewide strike, as well as a protest march that will be held on Friday.
Almost all other pro-independence groups have supported the shutdown and have likewise called to protest over four assassination-style killings that took place last week. Many government employees did not go to work.
Indian officials claim rebels are responsible for the killings, but Kashmiri resistance groups say four men - who were all former fighters and pro-independence activists - were murdered by government-sponsored gunmen.
All the killings happened in Sopore, starting with Geelani's Tehreek-e-Hurriyat party member Muhammad Altaf Sheikh last Tuesday. Two former pro-independence fighters and another activist were also killed in the same town.
The murders have evoked haunting memories of killings of hundreds of Kashmiri rebels and activists carried out by Indian secret service-sponsored militias in the 1990s.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, and the two countries have fought over the region since the partition of India in 1947.
Since 1989, Kashmiri resistance groups in Indian-held Kashmir have been fighting for independence or unification with neighboring Pakistan.
The Muslim-majority Kashmir’s pro-independence leaders have called on people to take to the streets on Friday for a joint protest, pointing out that all the killings followed a similar pattern and happened in crowded areas, sometimes with the police presence.
The groups criticised the officials for protecting the killers and unwillingness to conduct proper investigation.
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed is set to hold a meeting on Wednesday with the army, police and other security agency officials in the capital Srinagar to discuss the killings, local media reported.
The murders come after five telecom workers were killed last month following claims that the cell phone towers were being used by Indian intelligence for spying.
India has deployed an additional 600 soldiers and police to the valley and offered a million rupees ($15,600) for information about the suspects.