Fury in Kashmir after deadly police raid on shopping complex

SRINAGAR, Kashmir – Tensions in Kashmir rise days after four people were killed in a raid by Indian security forces, fueling indignant p...

SRINAGAR, Kashmir – Tensions in Kashmir rise days after four people were killed in a raid by Indian security forces, fueling indignant protests against impunity and raising fears that the conflict-torn region could slip into another particularly deadly phase.

Indian police said two activists and two businessmen they described as “supporters of terrorism” were killed in a police raid on a shopping complex on Monday.

Police initially said they were the targets of gunfire from the activists, who also killed the two businessmen in the process. They then edited this account, saying the businessmen may have been caught in the crossfire and it was not clear who shot them dead.

Family members of three of the dead disputed both versions of events, accusing police of organizing the shooting. Demanding that the bodies of their loved ones be returned to them for a proper burial, they joined a protest of some 20 people that ended abruptly on Wednesday when protesters were taken away by police, in footage captured in video and broadcast via the Internet. through the Kashmir Valley.

“Shoot me, terrorists,” shouted Abdul Majid Bhat, the older brother of Mohammad Altaf Bhat, 45, whom police identified as one of the killed, at a policeman pointing a gun to his chest during the protest. which took place. near the offices of the main newspapers in the region. “God is watching. “

On Thursday, India’s top-appointed official in the region, Manoj Sinha, said his administration had ordered an investigation into the episode by magistrates. “This will ensure that there will be no injustice,” Sinha said said in a tweet, without providing further details.

Kashmir has been claimed by India and Pakistan for decades, and Indian security forces have been fighting for a long time pro-independence activists in the valley. Tensions skyrocketed in 2019 after India, irritated by persistent militant attacks, revoked Kashmir’s partial autonomy and flooded the region with additional forces. Indian security forces have also suppressed dissent and I you many opponents and even a few moderates in prison.

When India revoked Kashmir’s semi-autonomous status, one of the measures taken to crack down on the separatists was to refuse to allow dead militants or those deemed associated to be buried in their family cemeteries. Instead, authorities are now burying them far away, near the contested line of control that divides India and Pakistan in Kashmir.

Police say the decision not to return the bodies is aimed at stopping the spread of the coronavirus and preventing funerals from turning into mass rallies of angry supporters of the activists. The move sparked widespread anger and accusations of violating the religious rights of the families of the dead.

During Monday’s clash, police said they were informed of the presence of two activists at a shopping complex and that when they approached the room where the men were hiding, the activists shot them “without warning.” discernment ”.

Police said one of the dead was a Pakistani national; India has long accused Pakistan of supporting militant groups in the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir. Although Pakistan is used to supporting militant groups in the region, Western terrorism experts say support has waned in recent years. The insurrection is now largely the work of local activists from Kashmir.

As news of the clashes spread, relatives of three of the dead said it was an exchange of gunfire and demanded that authorities return the bodies for the last rites. Kashmir’s top police official Vijay Kumar told a press conference that the two businessmen killed in the clash, Mr Bhat and Dr Mudasir Gul, were “supporters of terrorism. “.

Activists and human rights groups have long accused Indian forces of killing civilians with impunity, over the Indian laws that protect them from prosecution. They said shootings are sometimes organized so that soldiers can earn rewards and promotions.

In the past two years alone, family members have interviewed at least three shootings, accusing security forces of killing their loved ones in staged shootings. Indian authorities deny these allegations.

The violence of activists has surged in recent months, including against Hindu and Sikh civilians. In response, last week the Indian government said it had deployed 2,500 additional paramilitary troops to the region. Kashmir was for decades one of the most militarized areas in the world, with around half a million troops stationed there.

Saima Bhat, a niece of Mr. Bhat, told the New York Times that her uncle, who owned the mall as well as one of those killed there, was an innocent civilian who had been used as a human shield .

“We are not expecting any justice,” Ms Bhat said on Thursday. “We want the authorities to return his corpse, so that his children can see his face one last time.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: Fury in Kashmir after deadly police raid on shopping complex
Fury in Kashmir after deadly police raid on shopping complex
Newsrust - US Top News
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