A fresh cycle of violence erupted in Indian-administered Kashmir on Friday after a suspected militant and a civilian were allegedly killed by police fire during an overnight encounter.
Police said the civilian – Ghulam Bhat – was killed in cross-fire between government forces and suspected Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) separatists in south Kashmir’s militancy-infested Anantnag district.
“The civilian who lost his life was riding on a motorcycle while the encounter with the militants was on. Somehow, one of the bullets hit him,” S. P. Vaid, Indian Kashmir’s police chief, told BenarNews.
Residents refuted the police claim, saying Bhat was killed when security forces fired indiscriminately to disperse anti-India protesters.
The suspected militant was identified as Yawar Nisar, 25, a resident of Anantnag district.
“He had only recently joined HM and was involved in a few bank robberies and acts of terror,” a police official told BenarNews without elaborating. HM is the oldest and largest separatist faction in Indian Kashmir.
Street clashes were reported across south Kashmir on Friday, leaving 20 protesters and six security personnel injured.
The violence came a day after two Indian Army soldiers and two suspected separatists were killed in separate gunfights in the disputed Himalayan region, where more than 70,000 have died as a result of the separatist insurgency since the late 1980s.
Security has been beefed up across Kashmir, which is claimed in its entirety by India and Pakistan, to curb protests that followed the killing of a top Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militant – Abu Dujana, 27 – and his aide on Tuesday, police said.
“By and large, we have brought the situation under control now. Indian security forces exercised maximum restraint while dealing with violent protesters,” Vaid said.
Internet services have remained off in many districts of Kashmir since Dujana’s killing to prevent people from organizing protests. Despite preventive measures, the Pakistani national’s death triggered widespread protests, during which two civilians died and 45 others were injured on Tuesday.
India, Pakistan trade jibes
India routinely accuses Pakistan of backing armed separatism on the Indian side of Kashmir, which is known as Jammu and Kashmir state. Pakistan repeatedly denied this charge, saying the decades-old violence was a result of India’s oppressive rule in the Muslim-majority region.
New Delhi said Friday it would initiate a dialogue with Pakistan only if Islamabad stopped pushing terrorists into India.
“Terror and talks cannot go together,” External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said in parliament.
“The day Pakistan stops promoting terror, India will start the talks. The dialogue cannot be one-sided,” Swaraj said.
Meanwhile, Pakistan said it was intent on resolving the Kashmir issue peacefully and would continue to extend its political and diplomatic support to Kashmiris on the Indian side.
“Pakistan remains committed to peacefully resolving the Kashmir dispute in accordance with the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council and will continue to extend its moral, political and diplomatic support to the people in Kashmir,” Pakistan’s foreign office said in a statement on Friday.
“The deteriorating human rights situation in Kashmir has serious implications for regional peace and security. The international community must take notice of the grave rights violations in Kashmir,” it added.