Activists protesting against India's new land laws in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir. Mukhtar Khan/AP
Militants shot dead three young workers of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party in Kashmir late on Thursday, days after his government changed laws allowing people from the rest of the country to buy land in the disputed region.
Many Kashmiris have been simmering with anger since Modi's nationalist government last year annulled the decades-old autonomy of India's only Muslim-majority region, and then detained several local political leaders to suppress dissent.
The government says it is trying to better integrate Kashmir with the rest of the country and make laws uniform across states, though militants have in response stepped up attacks on Kashmiri members of Modi's Bharatiya Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Kashmir Police Chief Vijay Kumar told Reuters that a hunt had been launched for the militants who killed the BJP workers on Thursday evening in the region's southern district of Kulgam.
The BJP said on Twitter that “those who are responsible for this will not be spared”, while Modi condemned the killings.
“They were bright youngsters doing excellent work in J&K,” he said about the Jammu & Kashmir federal territory.
“My thoughts are with their families in this time of grief. May their souls rest in peace.”
Earlier this year, five other BJP workers were killed in Kashmir, prompting the police to move hundreds of village leaders who are close to the party to high-security zones.
The mountainous Kashmir region is ruled by India and Pakistan in parts but both claim it in full.
The militants opened fire on Gul Mohammad Mir, who belonged to a local unit of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), at his house in south Kashmir on Saturday night.
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Nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan each administer part of Kashmir, but both claim the Himalayan territory in its entirety. Rebel groups have been fighting since 1989 for Kashmir’s independence or merger with neighboring Pakistan.
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The country has been in turmoil since the army ousted the civilian leader in February, launching a bloody crackdown on dissent that has killed more than 900 people according to a local monitoring group.
The insurgents stepped up a nationwide offensive that saw a key airport in the south come under rocket fire overnight that the aim was to thwart air strikes conducted by Afghan government forces.
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