India: Five Civilians Killed in Kashmir Protests

Amin Masoodi
Srinagar, India
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160816-IN-Kashmir-620.jpg A Kashmiri woman hugs the body of a civilian during a funeral in Aripanthan Maga village in Budgam district where four people were killed during anti-government protests, Aug. 16, 2016.

Security forces in Indian-administered Kashmir on Tuesday fired on protesters in two districts, killing five civilians even as the government scrambled to solve weeks of violence after a separatist leader was slain last month.

The deaths occurred when stone-throwing anti-India protesters and security forces clashed in the curfew-bound districts of Budgam and Anantanag in Jammu and Kashmir state, police said.

Fresh clashes were also reported in Srinagar district, where police fired tear gas shells to disperse an angry crowd protesting the killing of an 18-year-old youth by a police bullet on Monday.

The new cycle of violence in the restive Himalayan region, which has endured a separatist insurgency since the late 1980s, began after security forces gunned down Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) leader Burhan Wani on July 8.

Since then, 65 people, including two policemen, have been killed and more than 6,000 injured in ongoing clashes between armed forces and Kashmiri residents who are demanding freedom from Indian rule.

Separatists to march to U.N. office

Following the latest killings, separatist outfits called on the people of Kashmir to defy a statewide curfew and walk to the office of the United Nations Military Observers Group in Srinagar.

“We cannot sit in our homes and get killed. I appeal to the people of Kashmir to come out on the streets and march toward the U.N. office in Srinagar on Wednesday to launch the decisive phase of the on-going movement,” Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, chairman of the moderate faction of All Parties Hurriyat Conference, an alliance of 26 political, social and religious organizations that has been fighting since 1993 for Kashmiri independence from India, said in a statement.

On Aug. 4, a spokesman for U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that Kashmir – a Himalayan region claimed in its entirety by India and Pakistan – was India’s internal matter and that the agency had no mandate beyond the Line of Control (LoC) to monitor the situation there. The line is a de facto boundary that separates the Indian- and Pakistani-controlled sides of Kashmir.

Wednesday’s rally was aimed at reminding the world body of its “promises made to the people of Kashmir who are suffering so much because of its inaction,” Farooq said.

“If we are stopped, we will sit wherever we are and protest for 72 hours peacefully,” he said.

New low for Indo-Pak ties

In New Delhi, Indian Minister for Home Affairs Rajnath Singh on Tuesday chaired a high-level emergency meeting of the country’s top security officials to find solutions to end the crisis in Kashmir, sources said. The details of the meeting were not made public.

New Delhi has blamed Islamabad for the current unrest, a charge that Pakistan has denied.

“What is happening in Kashmir is sponsored by Pakistan,” Singh told parliament last week.

“Two weeks ago, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said he is waiting for the day when Kashmir will become theirs. He has also written to the U.N. Secretary General saying there should be a plebiscite in Kashmir,” the home minister said then, adding, “No power in the world can take [Kashmir] from us. If there is a dialogue with Pakistan, it will be on Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir.”

During his Independence Day speech on Monday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said people in the conflicted Pakistani states of Balochistan, Gilgit and Pakistan-administered Kashmir had reached out to him for help. He also accused Pakistan of “glorifying terrorists.”

In a sarcastic comment on Twitter on Tuesday, Omar Abdullah, the former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, came out strongly against Modi for worrying about Pakistan-administered Kashmir. “6 protesters dead in Kashmir in 24 hours but WTH let’s go sort out Balochistan since we are doing such a good job in J&K at the moment!” he said.

Islamabad, too, hit out at Modi for his reference to Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

“PM Modi’s reference to Balochistan, which is an integral part of Pakistan, only proves Pakistan’s contention that India though intelligence agency RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) has been fomenting terrorism in Balochistan,” Pakistani Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz said.

On Tuesday, Sharif reiterated his government’s stance of continuing to extend “moral, diplomatic and political support to the indigenous freedom struggle” in Indian-administered Kashmir.

“The international community needs to take stock of the brutalities against unarmed innocent Kashmiri people, who are giving unprecedented sacrifices for attainment of their inalienable right to freedom,” Sharif was quoted as saying in Pakistani media.

I-day attack

Indian security agencies, on the other hand, accused Pakistan of mobilizing cadres of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a militant outfit based in the neighboring country, of unleashing terror amid the on-going crisis in Kashmir.

As India was celebrating its 70th Independence Day on Monday, the country’s security forces said they had neutralized seven suspected LeT militants who launched two separate attacks in Srinagar and Baramulla, killing a policeman and injuring 11 others.

Pramod Kumar, a commandant of the 49 Battalion of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), was shot and killed in the encounter in Srinagar, police said, adding that two senior army officers and nine police personnel were injured.

“A large cache of arms and ammunition was recovered from the slain Pakistan-sponsored militants,” Rajesh Yadav, spokesman for the CRPF, told BenarNews.


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