Kash­mir un­rest prompts In­dia’s big­gest crack­down in decades

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Anx­ious to quell anti-In­dia protests in Kash­mir, In­dian forces are car­ry­ing out their most se­vere crack­down in more than two decades against civil­ian pro­test­ers, ar­rest­ing more than 8,000 this sum­mer across the dis­puted Hi­malayan ter­ri­tory, po­lice said yes­ter­day. That in­cludes 450 or so civil­ians be­ing held, pos­si­bly for up to six months without trial, un­der a harsh se­cu­rity law crit­i­cized as a hu­man-rights vi­o­la­tion. In­dia has said the separatist rebels - and civil­ians who help them - are un­der­min­ing the coun­try’s ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity and forc­ing au­thor­i­ties to keep the In­dia-con­trolled por­tion of Kash­mir un­der tight con­trol.

“This is, so far, the big­gest crack­down against mis­cre­ants,” said a se­nior po­lice of­fi­cer, re­quest­ing anonymity be­cause he was not au­tho­rized to share de­tails of the crack­down. For weeks, In­dian au­thor­i­ties have car­ried out night­time raids, rolling cur­fews and stops at road­blocks, but have failed to stop the rebel at­tacks and an­gry pub­lic ral­lies. Yes­ter­day, govern­ment forces were bat­tling a group of suspected rebels near a high­way run­ning by saf­fron-rich Pam­pore town, on the out­skirts of the re­gion’s main city of Sri­na­gar. Gun­shots and grenade blasts were heard from the site, where units of the army’s spe­cial forces, para­mil­i­tary sol­diers and coun­terin­sur­gency po­lice had cor­doned off and en­cir­cled a build­ing, ac­cord­ing to an of­fi­cer who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity, in keep­ing with de­part­ment pol­icy.

The of­fi­cer said the two sides were ex­chang­ing in­ter­mit­tent gun­fire. One soldier was re­ported in­jured. Scores of peo­ple gath­ered on nearby streets to chant anti-In­dia slo­gans in a show of sol­i­dar­ity with the rebels. In­dia has faced a separatist chal­lenge in Kash­mir since 1947, when In­dia and neigh­bor­ing Pak­istan gained in­de­pen­dence and launched the first of two wars they would fight over their ri­val claims to the Mus­lim­ma­jor­ity re­gion.

In­dia blames Pak­istan for arm­ing and train­ing rebels to cross the heav­ily mil­i­ta­rized bor­der that di­vides the re­gion be­tween the two coun­tries; Pak­istan de­nies the al­le­ga­tion and says it of­fers the rebels only mo­ral sup­port. Most peo­ple in the In­dian-con­trolled por­tion of the di­vided ter­ri­tory fa­vor in­de­pen­dence or a merger with Pak­istan. Rebel groups have been fight­ing in the re­gion since 1989, and more than 68,000 peo­ple have been killed in the armed up­ris­ing and en­su­ing In­dian mil­i­tary crack­down.

While anti-In­dia protests are some­what com­mon dur­ing warmer sum­mer months, this year’s have been es­pe­cially fraught amid wide­spread anger over the killing of a pop­u­lar rebel com­man­der by In­dian forces in July. In­dia has re­sponded with a clam­p­down that has nearly par­a­lyzed daily life. More than 80 civil­ians have been killed and thou­sands in­jured in clashes with po­lice and para­mil­i­tary troops. Two po­lice­men have also been killed and hun­dreds of govern­ment forces in­jured in the clashes.

Po­lice say they have de­tained at least 8,000 peo­ple on sus­pi­cion of par­tic­i­pat­ing in anti-In­dia protests and throw­ing rocks at govern­ment troops, in­clud­ing more than 400 peo­ple picked up in night­time raids in the last week alone. Many de­tained have been sub­se­quently re­leased on bail as well, po­lice said. Of­fi­cers are still hunt­ing for at least 1,500 more peo­ple suspected of par­tic­i­pat­ing in protests, ac­cord­ing to three other top po­lice of­fi­cers over­see­ing the crack­down op­er­a­tions. The of­fi­cers also spoke on cus­tom­ary con­di­tion of anonymity. —AP

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