India: Kashmir Boils in Wake of Separatist Leader’s Killing

Amin Masoodi
Srinagar, India
2016-07-11
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160711-IN-kashmir-violence-620.jpg Kashmiri protesters clash with Indian police in Srinagar following the killing of a top separatist fighter, July 10, 2016.
AFP

A curfew remained in force in Indian-administered Kashmir on Monday as the death toll climbed to 25 from three days of violent clashes that followed the killing of a top separatist commander, police said.

Two teenagers who were shot when security forces fired on stone-hurling crowds that were protesting the slaying of Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) leader Burhan Wani on Friday, died Monday of their injuries, officials said. The two were identified as Shahid Ahmad, 13, and Yasmeena Akther, 14.

Except for an effort by a few dozen protesters to storm the Awantipur Air Force Station near Srinagar, Monday was relatively peaceful following weekend clashes in several districts in Jammu and Kashmir, according to officials. The Indian-claimed side of the disputed Himalayan region has been gripped by a separatist insurgency since the late 1980s.

“We are constantly reviewing the situation and I hope the curfew will be lifted in a few days,” Syed Javid Mujtaba Gilani, Jammu and Kashmir’s inspector general of police, told BenarNews.

One policeman, identified as Arfroz Ahmad, had died and nearly 400 security personnel and at least 250 civilians had been injured during weekend clashes, he said.

Ahmad drowned on Sunday after a mob allegedly pushed his vehicle into a river in Anantnag district, police said.

“Several police stations and police vehicles have been torched by unruly mobs, but we are showing maximum restraint to avoid civilian casualties and collateral damage,” Gilani said, adding that mobile internet services remained suspended for the third straight day to prevent protesters from organizing rallies.

Jammu and Kashmir residents blamed Indian security forces for using excessive force to thwart peaceful protests, but state Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Sunday vowed to investigate those allegations while appealing for calm.

“They [the police] are using brute force to muzzle peaceful protests aimed at paying tribute to the slain separatist. They are fully responsible for the cold blooded killing of civilians,” Tajamul Ahmad, 17, a Srinagar resident, told BenarNews.

“By doing this, Indian authorities are only further alienating the people of Kashmir. It is this excessive force that is forcing Kashmiri youths to pick up guns against Indian armed forces,” he said.

Pakistan decries Wani’s death

Wani, 23, who is believed to have joined HM, Kashmir’s largest rebel faction, in 2010 after he and his brother allegedly were assaulted by Indian security personnel, was considered a poster boy of armed separatism in the region.

A resident of south Kashmir’s Tral town, Wani had a bounty of 1 million rupees ($14,894) on his head.

Pakistan, which along with India lays claim to the entire Kashmir region, on Sunday termed Wani’s death as an “extra-judicial killing.”

“The extra-judicial killing of Kashmiri leader Burhan Wani and scores of other innocent Kashmiris is deplorable and condemnable. Such acts are a violation of fundamental human rights of Kashmiris and cannot deter people of J&K from their demand for realization of the right to self-determination,” Pakistan’s foreign office said in a statement.

Reacting to the statement, Indian Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju urged Pakistan to refrain from interfering with India’s internal affairs.

“They [Pakistan] should worry [more] about human rights violations in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir than Jammu and Kashmir. Kashmir is an internal matter of India,” Rijiju told reporters in New Delhi on Monday.

Youthful discontent

Meanwhile, political and security observers called on Indian authorities to practice restraint and try to address the issue of growing discontent among youths in Kashmir.

“The discontent among Kashmiri youths is deep-rooted. Indian authorities must attempt to understand where it’s coming from and address it using peaceful means rather than brutal force,” Noor Mohammad Baba, a Srinagar-based analyst, told BenarNews.

However, retired Maj. Gen. G.D. Bakshi, a Delhi-based security expert, hailed the police action to thwart violent protests, saying it was time that Indian authorities reined in the voices fanning the idea of separatism in Kashmir.

“There were orchestrated attempts by separatists and those who support separatism to exploit the situation after Burhan Wani was killed. Their only aim is to stoke separatism,” Bakshi told BenarNews.

“Our security forces have done a commendable job by preventing the situation from escalating. How could the police just stand by while unruly mobs were attacking their posts and vehicles? I think, our armed forces have been able to effectively deal with the situation that appeared to be going out of hand,” he said.

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