Kash­mir shut by strike, se­cu­rity day af­ter deadly fight­ing

Arab News - - INTERNATIONAL -

Troops laid steel bar­ri­cades and ra­zor wire on roads and in­ter­sec­tions to cut off neigh­bor­hoods as au­thor­i­ties an­tic­i­pated wide­spread protests.

At least 13 rebels and three In­dian army sol­diers were killed in Sun­day’s fight­ing in three gun­bat­tles in south­ern Kash­mir, where a new gen­er­a­tion of rebels have re­vived mil­i­tancy and chal­lenged New Delhi’s rule with guns and ef­fec­tive use of so­cial me­dia.

As the fight­ing raged, large anti-In­dia protests erupted in sev­eral parts of In­di­an­con­trolled Kash­mir and at least four civil­ians were killed and dozens in­jured.

Res­i­dents said gov­ern­ment troops fired live am­mu­ni­tion and shot­gun pel­lets into the crowds of mostly young pro­test­ers, caus­ing in­juries. They also said one of the civil­ians who died in south­ern Shopian near a gun­bat­tle on Sun­day was be­ing used as a hu­man shield against rebels by the In­dian army.

An army of­fi­cer, who de­clined to be named in keep­ing with army reg­u­la­tions, re­jected the ac­cu­sa­tion and said the civil­ian was killed in the crossfire with in­sur­gents.

In the past, such al­le­ga­tions have rarely been probed, and some ac­cused mil­i­tary of­fi­cials have been re­warded.

Ac­cord­ing to hos­pi­tal of­fi­cials, many of the in­jured were hit by shot­gun pel­lets in the eyes, caus­ing wide­spread anger across Kash­mir. In 2016, Sri­na­gar’s main hos­pi­tal alone re­ceived hun­dreds of pa­tients who had been in­jured in their eyes and blinded by shot­gun pel­lets af­ter some of the big­gest protests against In­dian rule in re­sponse to the killing of a charis­matic young rebel leader, Burhan Wani.

On Sun­day, doc­tors treated and op­er­ated on over 50 young men brought to the hos­pi­tal, most of them hit in the eyes by pel­lets. A doc­tor said about 30 could lose their eye­sight.

In­ter­na­tional rights groups have re­peat­edly con­demned the In­dian crack­down and called on it to stop us­ing shot­gun pel­lets against pro­test­ers armed only with stones. How­ever, gov­ern­ment troops have con­tin­ued us­ing the weapon.

On Mon­day, the In­dian chap­ter of rights group Amnesty In­ter­na­tional tweeted that In­dian “se­cu­rity forces must re­frain from us­ing ex­ces­sive force against pro­test­ers in Kash­mir. In­ter­net shut­downs must not be blan­ket or in­def­i­nite.”

Also on Mon­day, doc­tors and paramedics at the main hos­pi­tal in Shopian held a sitin protest against gov­ern­ment forces for firing in­side the hos­pi­tal’s premises Sun­day night when many in­jured were be­ing treated. The med­i­cal staff said troops tried to stop them from per­form­ing their du­ties. No one was re­ported in­jured in the firing. In re­cent years, Kash­miris, mainly youths, have dis­played open sol­i­dar­ity with anti-In­dia rebels and sought to pro­tect them by en­gag­ing troops in street clashes dur­ing mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions against the mil­i­tants. The protests have per­sisted de­spite the In­dian army chief warn­ing that tough ac­tion would be taken against stone-throw­ers dur­ing coun­terin­sur­gency op­er­a­tions.

In Pak­istan’s cap­i­tal, Is­lam­abad, Prime Min­is­ter Shahid Khaqan Ab­basi con­vened a spe­cial Cab­i­net meet­ing which con­demned the killing of “in­no­cent peo­ple in Kash­mir by the In­dian forces,” a gov­ern­ment state­ment said.

It said Ab­basi asked the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to urge In­dia to al­low factfind­ing mis­sions to be sent to Kash­mir and asked the United Na­tions to ap­point a spe­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tive to Kash­mir “where In­dia, en­cour­aged by the si­lence of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity, con­tin­ues to kill with im­punity.”

Kash­miri pro­test­ers clash with In­dian gov­ern­ment forces dur­ing a one-day strike called by Kash­miri seper­atists against killings in down­town Sri­na­gar on Mon­day. (AFP)

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