Srinagar, India -
Residents of India's Kashmir valley complained on Sunday about the second day of curfew imposed following the hanging of a local separatist which has sparked a fresh debate on capital punishment.
Mohammed Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri Muslim convicted of helping plot the 2001 attack on the Indian parliament which left 10 people dead, was executed on Saturday in New Delhi's Tihar jail.
Fearing a backlash over his death, Indian authorities imposed a tight curfew on Saturday in major populated areas of Kashmir, shut down Internet services and blocked local newspapers in a bid to prevent demonstrations.
At least four people were injured on Saturday during protests, including two who received bullet injuries when government forces fired on a crowd in a village 40 kilometres from the biggest city of Srinagar.
Abdul Hafeez, a resident of Srinagar, said his two-month-old granddaughter needed milk, but they were unable to go shopping because of the strict orders restricting people to their homes which have been imposed indefinitely.
“We have seen so much violence in the past. We just hope that things return to normal as quickly as possible,” he told AFP.
Guru was convicted of waging war against India and conspiring with the Islamist militants who attacked the parliament - an event that brought nuclear-armed India and Pakistan to the brink of another conflict.
The one-time fruit merchant and a medical college dropout always insisted he was innocent and claimed he was denied a proper legal defence, while protesters in Kashmir have often accused the police of framing him.
The world' biggest democracy uses capital punishment for the “rarest of rare” crimes.
It had not carried out an execution since 2004 until the hanging in November 2012 of Mohammed Kasab, the lone surviving gunman of 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai.
The two executions Ä both approved under new President Pranab Mukherjee - raised concerns among human rights activists who had hoped India was phasing out the practice following its informal eight-year moratorium.
“India should end this distressing use of executions as a way to satisfy some public opinion,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
Amnesty International was also quick to condemn Guru's hanging as a “disturbing and regressive trend” towards executions in India.
A section of the Indian press speculated on who could be the next to face the gallows, while respect left-of-centre newspaper The Hindu slammed the execution.
“Guru was walked to the gallows... at the end of the macabre rite governments enact from time to time to propitiate that most angry of gods, a vengeful public,” it said.
“There is no principle underpinning the death penalty in India today except vengeance. And vengeance is no principle at all,” the daily wrote.
In Kashmir, where a bloody separatist conflict has claimed an estimated 100 000 lives over the last 20 years, some feared that the execution could feed local anti-India feeling and spur more violence.
Police also prevented local newspapers from publishing on Sunday and seized copies of four dailies who managed to go to press in defiance of the restrictions.
“Police seized our newspaper from the press without any prior information to our management,” Haji Hayat, editor-in-chief of the English language newspaper Kashmir Reader, told AFP. - Sapa-AFP