Kashmir shut by strike, security day after deadly fighting
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)