Indian soldiers kill a rebel fighter in south Kashmir, sparking anti-India demonstrations during which a civilian was shot dead, officials and witnesses say.

Kashmiri villagers carrying the body of the 16-year-old rebel Fardeen Ahmad Khandey mourn during a funeral procession in Tral area of South Kashmir on January 1, 2018.
Kashmiri villagers carrying the body of the 16-year-old rebel Fardeen Ahmad Khandey mourn during a funeral procession in Tral area of South Kashmir on January 1, 2018. (AFP)

A young man was killed and two others wounded in disputed Kashmir when Indian soldiers fired at anti-India demonstrators following a gun battle that killed a rebel fighter on Tuesday, officials and witnesses said.

Police said the Indian troops cordoned off the southern Kokernag area on a tip that rebels were hiding there.

They said troops killed one rebel but at least one escaped during the fighting.

According to the English-language newspaper Hindustan Timesteenager Farhan Wani had joined the rebel band in mid-2017 and had refused surrender pleas. 

As the fighting raged, anti-government protests erupted at the gun battle site and some neighbouring villages, leading to clashes between stone-pelting residents and Indian soldiers who fired bullets, shotgun pellets and tear gas.

At least three were reported injured in the clashes and a young man who was hit by bullets died in a hospital.

'Collective punishment' 

Kashmir popular resistance leader Mirwaiz Umer Farooq condemned the killings saying "in the garb of (CASO) Cordon and Search Operations, Kashmiris are being collectively punished."

"The cruel and oppressive regime of Mehbooba Mufti continues to beat all records," he tweeted, referring to the region's pro-India politician and chief minister. 

Mufti's People's Democratic Party (or PDP) formed a governing alliance with Hindu right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after a 2015 election in the region. That has made her party hugely unpopular in the mainly Muslim-majority region.

In recent years, Kashmiris, mainly youths, have displayed open solidarity with anti-India rebels with some of them continuing to join the rebel groups. 

Last week, Hizb ul Mujahideen (HuM), one of the largest rebel groups, announced induction of a PHD scholar, Manan Bashir Wani, from Kashmir into the group's ranks. 

HuM said the presence of more than one million Indian troops in Kashmir forced the highly-qualified youth "to fight for their rights."

Seven decades of dispute

Rival neighbours Pakistan and India each administer part of Kashmir since 1947, but both claim the Himalayan territory in its entirety. 

Rebel groups demand that Kashmir be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country. 

Anti-India sentiment runs deep in the region, and most people support the rebels' cause against Indian rule while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian control.

Nearly 100,000 people, mostly civilians have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown since 1989.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies