Kashmir on edge after Indian troops kill seven civilians

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Normal life in Indian Kashmir remained paralyzed on Sunday after the shutdown called by the Joint Resistance leadership (JRL)— an amalgam of pro-freedom leaders – as a mark of protest against the killing of seven civilians in south Kashmir’s Pulwama.

Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah called the killings as “massacre”.

On Saturday, according to the police, soon after the encounter between militants and security forces began in Sirnoo village – around two kilometers from Pulwama district headquarters – hundreds of locals swarmed the gunfight to “unsuccessfully” help the militants escape.

Local reports say that as soon as protesters reached near the encounter site, Indian armed troops fired “indiscriminately” on the civilian protesters resulting in the death of seven civilians and injuring as many as 40 others.

The encounter

Though authorities shut the internet services in most of Kashmir, thus preventing information to move, reports say that based on specific information, a counter insurgency unit of the Indian army and Jammu and Kashmir police cordoned an apple orchard in the outskirts of Sirnoo hamlet, resulting in a fierce gun battle with hiding militants.

Eyewitnesses told Al Arabiya English, the cordoned area had been laid during the night but that the gun battle actually took place slightly before 8 am on Saturday, resulting into the killing of all three militants.

Saturday’s incident is a one of the rare encounters in which seven civilians were killed. According to the locals, the encounter had broken in an open orchid which was accessible from all sides. Within minutes, people thronged to the site in order to save the militants but were fired on by the army resulting in civilian deaths.

Tempers rising

As the news of the civilian deaths spread, reports of protests chipped in from various parts of Srinagar, Pulwama, Anantnag and Kulgam districts of Jammu and Kashmir.

Former Chief Ministers of the state Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti immediately denounced the killings and demanded an “end to the bloodbath”.

“7 dead. There is no explanation for this excessive use of force, none what so ever. This is a massacre & that’s the only way to describe it,” tweeted Omar Abdullah.

“No probe enough to bring back the dead innocent civilians.South Kashmir has been reeling under fear for the last 6 months. Is this what was expected from Gov rule? The admin has failed in securing civilian lives. Deepest condolences to the bereaved,” said another former chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti.

“How long are we going to shoulder the coffins of our youngsters? So many civilians killed today post encounter in Pulwama. No country can win a war by killing its own people. I strongly condemn these killings, and once again appeal for efforts, to stop this blood bath,” she added.

Meanwhile while condemning the killings, separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq announced on Twitter that the joint leadership of the Hurriyat had decided to march to the Badami Bagh army cantonment on December 17. They also called for a three-day shutdown to protest against the killings.

Government imposes restrictions

The on Sunday imposed restrictions under Section 144 CrPc in Pulwama district of south Kashmir and six police station areas of Srinagar. An official said the curbs have been imposed in Nowhatta, Khanyar, Rainawari, Safakadal, M R Gunj and Maisuma police station areas of the city. Government has also shut down mobile internet services in the valley and train service has also been suspended.

India and Pakistan is fighting an unending proxy war over the state of Jammu and Kashmir. In the 1990s, the conflict turned violent when locals started taking arms and fought the Indian army. India blames Pakistan for fueling unrest in the state, while Pakistan says India is holding Jammu and Kashmir under illegal occupation while the locals in the state are demanding for independence.