Indian Kashmir lockdown extended after separatist icon's death

Thousands of Indian security forces maintained a lockdown across Kashmir on Friday after the death of a separatist political leader sparked clashes with protesters.

The death of Syed Ali Geelani at the age of 92 heightened tensions in the disputed Himalayan territory after authorities refused to let him have a public funeral.

Authorities said an internet and mobile phone shutdown ordered after the seperatist icon died late Wednesday would continue and tight security was expected around Friday prayers in the main city of Srinagar.

Many mosques in the Muslim-majority region have announced that they would say special prayers for Geelani.

Thousands of police and troops manned barricades and patrolled streets to keep people indoors following clashes between residents and government forces in Srinagar late Thursday.

Police fired tear gas to disperse stone-throwing protesters but no injuries were reported.

Geelani’s son accused police of taking his father’s body away to be buried in the middle of the night, hours after his death.

The family said no relatives were allowed at the burial but police rejected the allegations as “false propaganda”.

A video widely shared on social media showed police in a scuffle with Geelani’s relatives before taking away his body that was wrapped in a Pakistani flag. 

Geelani, who had spent much of the past five decades in jail or under house arrest, had infuriated successive Indian governments with his pro-Pakistan stance and demands for a self-determination vote.

The nuclear-armed neighbours have disputed the region since their independence in 1947 and have fought two wars over Kashmir.

Pakistan observed a day of official mourning for Geelani on Thursday. 

India imposed a similar internet shutdown and other restrictions for nearly a year after stripping the territory of its semi-autonomy in 2019.

An insurgency against Indian rule erupted in 1989 and has left tens of thousands of dead. Security forces still fight near daily gun battles with separatist militants.

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