By Kristy Tridhavee
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Asia
SRINAGAR, India – On the 61st anniversary of Indian rule in the Kashmir region, separatists took part in a general strike that shut down the area’s shops, businesses, and government offices. The Indian government deployed thousands of troops in riot gear to patrol the region, and prohibited any gatherings of any more than 5 people.
On Sunday, shots were fired at protesters, killing one and wounding twenty. A student was killed when shots were fired at a crowd who were throwing stones. People had taken to the streets, chanting pro-freedom slogans.
The recent ban on protests was aimed to stop Kashmiri lawyers’ plan to form a human chain to protest the presence of Indian rule in the city. Mirwaiz Omer Farooq, a key separatist leader, said, “It’s an irony that even forming a human chain is a threat to the Indian state. This was supposed to be a symbolic protest reminding the world that India has militarily occupied this place.”
The area’s strike was called by the Jammu-Kashmir Coordination Committee, a coalition of Muslim separatist leaders and representatives of businesses, lawyers and government employees. The group demands Muslim-majority Kashmir’s independence from India or its merger with Pakistan. There were reports that police detained several separatists and lawyers who were expected to lead rallies on the anniversary.
Also on Sunday, Indian troops shot and killed five militants during a gun battle in the forests of Kishtiwar district. “The five were members of Hizbul Mujahideen,” said an army statement, referring to the region’s most powerful group fighting for Indian Kashmir to join with Pakistan.
Anti-Indian sentiment is strong in Kashmir, which remains divided between India and Pakistan. The countries both claim the region and have fought two wars over its control. Militant separatist groups have been fighting Indian forces since 1989 to end Indian rule. More than 68,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the uprising and subsequent Indian crackdown.
For more information, please see:
AP – Protests Against Indian Rule Shuts Down Kashmir – 27 October 2008
Reuters – India Deploys Extra Troops to Halt Kashmir Protests – 27 October 2008
Voice of America – Indian Troops in Kashmir to Block Anniversary Protests – 27 October 2008