Indian forces imposed an indefinite curfew in a town in the Indian portion of Kashmir after firing tear gas and warning shots to disperse groups of Hindus and Muslims who clashed during Eid al-Fitr celebrations, police said.

The army began enforcing the curfew as rival groups attacked each other with stones and sticks, and burned several shops and vehicles in Kishtwar, a town 200 kilometres southeast of Srinagar, the main city in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

Several people were hurt in the clashes, said one police officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to talk to reporters.

The trouble erupted after Hindus objected to Muslims shouting raising pro-independence slogans on the Eid holiday, which caps the fasting month of Ramadan.

Anti-India feelings run deep in Kashmir, where about a dozen rebel groups have been fighting against Indian rule since 1989. More than 65,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed.

"The situation is serious and our priority is not to allow the situation to escalate," the state director-general of police, Ashok Prasad, said Friday. "We are trying to enforce the curfew strictly."

State Home Minister Sajad Ahmed Kitchloo, who is from the area, escaped unhurt when his motorcade was attacked with stones by the clashing groups.


An Indian paramilitary soldier walks on a road scattered with bricks and stones thrown by Kashmiri protesters during a clash in Srinagar. Indian forces used tear gas and pellet guns to disperse thousands of protesters. (Dar Yasin/Associated Press)

Indian forces also used tear gas and pellet guns Friday to quell thousands of stone-throwing protesters who took to the streets in Srinagar.

Dozens of protesters, police and paramilitary officers were injured in the clashes, another police officer said.

The protesters chanted, "We want freedom," and "Down with India," as they marched through the streets of Srinagar.

The injured included 19 police and paramilitary soldiers, said Kishore Prasad, a spokesman for the Central Reserve Police force.

Several separatist leaders were put under house arrest on Thursday night to stop them from leading the protests ahead of the holiday, and shops and businesses were closed in the region.

The Kashmir freedom movement has largely been suppressed by Indian troops in recent years, and resistance is now principally expressed through street protests.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan. They have fought two wars over its control since they won independence from Britain in 1947.

The Indian portion of Kashmir is the only Muslim majority state in a predominantly Hindu country.