India Bolsters Security in Kashmir Ahead of Independence Day

By Amin Ahmad
150814-IN-checkpoint-620 An Indian policeman stands guard during search operations in Srinagar, Kashmir, on the eve of Indian Independence Day, Aug. 14, 2015.

A day after a grenade exploded outside a mosque in Indian-administered Kashmir, injuring 10 people – three critically – authorities Friday kept searching for suspects, and a curfew went into force in parts of Srinagar on the eve of India’s independence day celebrations, news reports said.

And as neighboring Pakistan celebrated its own independence day on Friday, Indian and Pakistani forces exchanged heavy fire across the Line of Control (LoC) that demarcates portions of Kashmir claimed by both countries.

A Pakistani woman was killed and her two daughters and husband were injured when an Indian mortar hit their home in the Neza Pir sector, the Associated Press reported.

On the Indian side of the LoC, security was being beefed up ahead of Indian independence day celebrations set for Saturday. Authorities stopped and searched vehicles, as well as frisked pedestrians.

Restrictions from the curfew that was imposed in parts of Srinagar – the main city in the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir – followed a recent spike in violence and led to the closure of its central mosque for Friday prayers, Agence France-Presse reported.

“The restrictions are imposed to prevent miscreants from hoisting Pakistani flags and to avoid loss of life,” AFP quoted Police Director General K. Rajendra Kumar as saying.

A rare occurrence

Police said they were still hunting for suspects behind Thursday’s explosion outside a mosque in southern Kashmir’s Shopian district.

“Nobody has been arrested in connection with the blast outside the mosque so far. The investigations are on,” Nitish Kumar, deputy inspector general of police for South Kashmir, told BenarNews.

Such an attack is rare in predominantly Muslim Kashmir.

“We are feeling immense insecurity after the explosion near the place of worship for the first time in Kashmir,” Mohammad Aslam Sheikh, a shopkeeper from Trenz, told BenarNews.

District officials, meanwhile, have opened their own investigation into the attack. It took place in the village of Trenz, some 55 km (34 miles) from Srinagar.

“I assured a delegation of village elders that the culprits behind the attack would be nabbed and dealt with sternly under the law,” Shopian Deputy Commissioner Ghulam Mohd Dar told BenarNews.

Post-prayer blast

The grenade went off as worshippers were putting on their shoes to leave the mosque after performing early morning prayers.

“A worshiper, while trying to pick up his shoe, touched a metal-like object in the shoe rack. It exploded with a deafening sound, injuring at least 10 people,” Shabir Ahmad Lone, a government employee and relative of Nayeem Aijaz Lone, 35, one of the injured persons, told BenarNews.

Less than an hour later, in the nearby village of Pehlipora, police defused a live grenade found near the home of a suspected Hizbul Mujahideen militant, a police official told BenarNews on condition of anonymity.

Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) is one of the main militant groups waging an insurgency against Indian forces in Kashmir.

Following Thursday’s explosion at the mosque, HM chief Syed Salahuddin condemned the attack.

“Attacking worshippers is nothing but the handiwork of Indian agencies,” Salahuddin said in a statement that was emailed to the Kashmir News Service.

“Indian forces are frightened due to intensified militant attacks, and that is why they are now targeting innocent civilians” he added.


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