India: Teen’s Killing Spurs Kashmir Protest

Amin Masoodi
Srinagar, India
2017-03-09
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170309-IN-kashmir-620.jpg Kashmiri villagers clash with Indian police near the site of a gun battle between security forces and suspected militants in Pulwama district, March 9, 2017.
AFP

Separatist leaders have called for a complete shutdown across Indian Kashmir on Friday to protest the killing of a teenager following an encounter between security forces and suspected militants in Pulwama district on Thursday.

Amir Nazir, 15, was allegedly killed when police opened fire on stone-hurling anti-India protesters who had poured out on the streets of the south Kashmir district after security forces gunned down two suspected Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operatives during a firefight.

Nazir died after being “hit by a stray bullet” near the site of the encounter, a senior police official told BenarNews on condition of anonymity, while expressing regret over the teenager’s death. The two slain suspected LeT operatives were identified as Shafi Shergujri and Jahangir Ahmad Ganie.

Jalal Din, 26, another civilian, apparently died of cardiac arrest when protesters started running to escape police firing, a health official said.

“There was no bullet injury on Jalal Din’s body. It appears he may have died of cardiac arrest or chest trauma while running for safety during clashes,” Rashid Parra, medical superintendent at the district hospital, told BenarNews.

News of the civilian deaths triggered another cycle of violent protests in the district, police said, adding that at least 25 protesters were injured when security forces fired teargas shells and pellets to disburse a mob.

Police said they wanted to capture the suspected militants alive and engaged their family members to persuade them to surrender.

“But Shergujri and Ganie flatly refused to come out of the house in which they were holed up and began firing. Both of them were killed in retaliatory fire,” the police official said.

Both residents of south Kashmir, Shergujri and Ganie were “involved in various terror acts [and] were motivating youths to join militant ranks in south Kashmir,” according to a statement released by the police.

In a separate incident later on Thursday, a suspected militant – identified as Mushtaq Ahmed – was shot dead by the Indian Army in north Kashmir’s Bandipora district, after he allegedly opened fire on an army check post. One soldier was injured in the firing, officials said.

Ahmed was allegedly a member of Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), the largest separatist faction in the disputed Himalayan region.

Claimed in its entirety by both India and Pakistan, Muslim-majority Kashmir has been grappling with a separatist insurgency that has claimed more than 70,000 lives since the late 1980s.

India blames Pakistan for militancy

Earlier this week, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) – India’s top counter terror unit – squarely blamed Pakistan-based militant outfits for funding militancy in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) and LeT are raising money through donations to charitable organizations associated with them to fund militancy in Kashmir, Atul Goel, NIA’s Superintendent of Police, said while addressing the 19th Asian Security Conference in New Delhi on Monday.

“Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation, a charity run by LeT and jamaat-ud-Dawa, and the JeM-backed Al-Rehmat Trust collect donations from Pakistan resident and then through their over-ground workers foment terror in Kashmir,” Goel said.

Earlier this year, Kashmir police blamed Pakistan for backing what it termed as “narco-terrorism.”

“The funds generated from sale of narcotics are being used to fund terror activities in Kashmir,” Director General of Police (DGP) S.P. Vaid told BenarNews in January.

Indian security experts agreed with these claims.

“There is a well-organized resource flow to Kashmiri separatists [from Pakistan]. This has been documented for many years,” Ajai Sahni of the New Delhi-based Institute of Conflict Management told BenarNews.

“Pakistani terror outfits routinely send mules across the LoC [Line of Control] to pass on funds to separatists in Kashmir,” K.R. Rajendra, Kashmir’s former DGP, told BenarNews, referring to the de facto border that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

But by blaming Pakistan for separatism in Kashmir, India was attempting to malign internationally the “ongoing freedom movement aimed at liberating Kashmir from India’s oppressive rule” said Shabir Shah, a separatist leader.

“Regardless of the Indian government tactics, the Kashmiri people’s resolve to fight oppression cannot be crushed,” he told BenarNews.

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