x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Shootings bring Indian Kashmir to a standstill

Two civilians, a rebel and a policeman were killed on the weekend.

An Indian paramilitary soldier stands guard outside his post during a strike in Srinagar.
An Indian paramilitary soldier stands guard outside his post during a strike in Srinagar.

SRINAGAR // Indian Kashmir largely shut down yesterday and hundreds of police were deployed in the troubled region's main city after the weekend shooting of two civilians by the army, a police chief said.

The shutdown to protest against the shootings came as a police officer and a militant were killed in a separate incident south of the main city Srinagar, said Kashmir's police chief Abdul Gani Mir.

The officer and the rebel died in the village of Mandoora, 35 kilometres from Srinagar, during a gun battle that also wounded three soldiers, the police chief said.

"We launched an operation based on intelligence of the presence of militants in the area. One of our boys was martyred in the operation," Mr Mir said and also confirmed the death of the rebel.

In Srinagar, shops and other businesses, along with schools, were closed and traffic was light after a separatist group called for a strike in the region to protest against the weekend killings.

Soldiers had opened fire on angry villagers on Sunday, killing one. The villagers had been protesting over the shooting of a teenager by the military just hours earlier during a hunt for militants in Markondal village north of Srinagar.

Hundreds of police and paramilitary troops were deployed in the inner parts of Srinagar yesterday to try to prevent protests, while a curfew was imposed on parts of the region.

Despite the curfew, hundreds of villagers in the northern town of Hajin took to the streets, shouting anti-India slogans, while some tried to torch an army-run school.

"Curfew is strictly implemented. The area is calm now," the police superintendent, Bashir Khan, said.

The army runs "goodwill" schools across the territory as part of an operation aimed at "winning the hearts and minds" of people who deeply resent their presence in populated areas.

Police have launched an investigation into the weekend shootings. The army has started its own inquiry after describing both incidents as regrettable.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan by a United Nations-monitored Line of Control. Both countries claim the Himalayan territory in full.

In a separate incident, Indian soldiers shot and killed a man at Saujaya in Poonch region who may have been carrying explosives from across the Pakistani side of the Line of Control, an army spokesman said.

"When our troops fired at him an explosion occurred. A badly mutilated body was found on the spot," said Colonel Rajesh Kalia.

About a dozen armed groups have been fighting Indian forces since 1989 for Kashmir's independence or for its merger with Pakistan.

Tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, have died in the fighting.