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Grenade explosion killed police officer in IHK

03 April, 2017

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SRINAGAR: A grenade explosion killed a police officer and injured 10 other security personnel in Indian-held Kashmir on Sunday, police said, hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the volatile region. The incident took place in the Nowhatta area of Srinagar near the 14th century Jamia Masjid.

"One police man died while 11 personnel have suffered injuries, some of them critically," a police officer said.

During his visit, Modi asked the youth of the picturesque region to "choose between tourism and terrorism".

"People of Kashmir have two roads in front of them: Tourism and terrorism… so much blood has spilled, but nothing has been achieved. If anybody has lost anything, it is the mother who lost her son. If tourism would have been made the focus in the last 40 years, Kashmir would be the hub of tourists," Modi, whose party rules the disputed state in an alliance, said.

Earlier, Modi inaugurated the tunnel which was opened for public on Sunday. Built at a staggering cost of INR 25,190 million on the only road link between Indian held-Kashmir and mainland India, the 9.27 km long tunnel, with state-of-the-art facilities and security equipment, will cut down the distance between Srinagar and Jammu by 30km with officials claiming that it will save fuel worth INR 999 million every year.

"Let me tell the youth of Kashmir Valley what is the strength of a stone. On one side, misguided youth are throwing stones and on the other side, there are youth breaking stones to build Kashmir's future," he said, referring to a wave of anguish that swept the Kashmir region following the killing of three civilians by Indian forces last week.

Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party has come under criticism for handling protests in Kashmir with an iron hand with New Delhi plainly refusing to acknowledge the political aspirations behind the street protests that left close to a hundred protesters dead in last year's uprising, and, instead, blaming Pakistan for fanning the unrest.

"Those on the other side can't control themselves. I want to show the people of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir how Jammu and Kashmir can develop. Let those people see what development is so that they know the exploitation that they have suffered from those controlling them," Modi said while addressing a public rally in the Hindu-majority Jammu region of the state.

Armed encounters between security forces and rebels fighting to end Indian rule over Kashmir have become more frequent since massive protests last year, sparked by the killing in July of popular commander Burhan Wani.

Large parts of the Kashmir valley observed a virtual shutdown on Sunday following a call by separatists protesting Modi's visit.

Rebel groups have for decades fought roughly 500,000 Indian soldiers deployed in the region, demanding independence or a merger of the territory with Pakistan.

The fighting has left tens of thousands, mostly civilians, dead.

The violence since last summer, largely in the form of troops firing on civilian crowds with pellet guns after protesters throw stones, has left 84 civilians dead and more than 12,000 civilians and security force personnel wounded.

In addition to increased security, Modi's government has tried wooing the local population with the promise of a better future through investment, job creation and infrastructure development.

Modi said the new tunnel would not only help farmers in the region take their produce to the capital in less time and avoid weather disruptions, but would potentially double tourism in the state.

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