- Curfew imposed in all ten districts of Kashmir after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen Commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani; Indian forces use tear gas and live ammunition on protesters; Communications break down after govt cuts off internet and mobile phone networks to try to stop the protests from spreading
- PM expresses shock, says excessive and unlawful force was used against civilians; Foreign Office says violence and deaths are ‘deplorable and condemnable’; APHC leader Mirwaiz says they see Burhan not as a hardcore militant but as a symbol against Indian forces
- Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti admits ‘disproportionate use of force’ by the Indian security forces; Home Minister Rajnath says more forces dispatched to bring situation under control
Protesters and government forces in Indian-held Kashmir clashed for a second day on Sunday as anger over the death of an influential militant commander boiled over, with 20 people killed in some of the worst civilian unrest to hit the region since 2010.
Another 200 people were wounded in the violence, many of them protesters angered over the killing of the 22-year-old Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani at the hands of the Indian security forces.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expressed shock over the killing of innocent civilians as the Foreign Office condemned the “continued killing of innocent Kashmiris in the Indian Occupied Kashmir”.
Even the Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti admitted ‘disproportionate use of force’ by the Indian security forces.
“Disproportionate use of force for crowd control results in loss of precious lives and grave injuries which should be avoided at all costs,” she said, expressing grief over the deaths. She asked the security forces to follow standard operating procedure while dealing with crowds.
Kashmiri separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said Kashmiris were not seeing Burhan as a hardcore militant but as a symbol against occupying Indian forces.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh said in a tweet that central forces have been sent to help the police in Kashmir.
On Saturday, the demonstrators were hit by government forces which fired tear gas canisters and live ammunition on them.
A curfew has been imposed in all ten districts of the valley. Several police stations and security establishments were attacked by mobs in areas including Anantnag, Kulgam and Shopian. According to police, more than 90 of those injured were security personnel.
Despite restrictions, a large number of people gathered in Tral for Wani’s funeral on Saturday. A commander of Kashmir’s largest pro-independence militant group Hizbul Mujahideen, Wani was killed along with two others during a brief gun battle with government forces.
The 22-year-old had become the face of the new freedom struggle in Kashmir, representing the profile of young, educated local boys taking up arms. He featured in videos circulated on social media aimed at recruiting young Kashmiri men for fighting Indian occupation forces.
As violence escalated in south Kashmir, three police stations were set on fire and weapons were looted. In Kulgam district, there was a complete breakdown of communications and even police wireless devices were turned useless.
Train services from Baramulla in the Kashmir valley to Banihal Town in Jammu were also suspended. The Srinagar-Jammu National Highway, which passes through south Kashmir, was also closed on Saturday.
Among the 20 dead was a police man who drowned when angry protesters pushed an armoured vehicle into a river in the southern district of Sangam on Sunday, a police officer said on condition of anonymity.
The state government, which has also cut off internet and mobile phone networks to try to stop the protests from spreading, called for calm on Sunday.
“They [protesters] should not take their protests to a level where a man holding a gun is forced to open fire,” said spokesman Nayeem Akhtar.
There were also reports of security forces attacking hospitals and ambulances treating the wounded.
“Attacking hospitals and ambulances is a crime under the international humanitarian law and Indian armed forces have been repeatedly accused of this crime in Kashmir,” said the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, a rights group, in a statement.
Police say protesters have set police stations on fire and thrown rocks at army camps in the south of the restive region.
Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif also expressed his deep shock over the killing of Burhan Wani and many other civilians in the Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir by the Indian military and paramilitary forces.
“It is deplorable that excessive and unlawful force was used against civilians who were protesting against the killing of Burhan Wani,” the prime minister said in his statement.
He said such oppressive measures could not deter the valiant people of Jammu and Kashmir from their demand of the right to self-determination in accordance with the resolutions of the UN Security Council.
The prime minister expressed serious concerns over the continued detention of the Kashmiri leadership in the Indian Occupied Kashmir and called on the Indian government to fulfill its human rights obligations as well as its commitments under the UN Security Council’s resolutions.
‘SYMBOLS OF RESISTANCE’:
The valley’s head cleric and separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said that the young and educated Kashmiri boys have joined the freedom movement. They are part of the struggle at the indigenous level. They are not the ones going anywhere outside for trainings nor is anyone anchoring them from behind. They are symbols of resistance.
In an interview during house arrest after the martyrdom of Wani, Farooq said there is no political space and that is the reason these boys are picking up guns especially after 2010 when the Indian occupation forces quelled the street protests through the use of force and intimidation and by killing innocent people.
“Today, we see Burhan not as a hardcore militant but as a symbol against them, knowing that he cannot beat the military might of India,” he said.
The All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) leader said Wani’s death will definitely inspire many people to go that way. “There is no denying that people feel a sense of desperation. People feel the government of India is just not ready to engage or even acknowledge the sentiments in Kashmir. The People’s Democratic Party and Bharatiya Janata Party coalition has added a huge dimension to the problem. People feel that India is trying to culturally, religiously and politically undermine our identity,” he said.
He said they want to keep the resistance political. But the fact is that, “we ourselves are under house arrest”.
“There is no scope for peaceful resistance. Even the coalition partners have abandoned their agenda. They don’t talk about self-governance anymore,” he said and added that neither the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Acts nor other issues important to the people of Kashmir were raised before forming the government. “It is sad that Chief Minister Mufti is speaking against clerics,” he said.
‘DEPLORABLE AND CONDEMNABLE’:
Reacting to the violence and deaths, Pakistan’s Foreign Pakistan strongly condemned the continued killing of innocent Kashmiris in the Indian Occupied Kashmir.
The Foreign Office spokesman in a statement in Islamabad on Sunday said extrajudicial killing of Kashmiri leader Burhan Wani and scores of other innocent Kashmiris is deplorable and condemnable.
He said such acts are a violation of the fundamental human rights of Kashmiris and cannot deter the people of Jammu and Kashmir from their demand of the right to self-determination.
The spokesman said Pakistan also has serious concerns over the detention of Kashmiri leadership in the Indian Occupied Kashmir and called upon the Indian government to fulfill its human rights obligations as well as its commitments under the UN Security Council’s resolutions.
Pakistan reiterated that the resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute is only possible through the realisation of the right to self-determination of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, as per the UN resolutions, through a fair and impartial plebiscite under UN auspices.
UPTICK IN VIOLENCE:
This is the worst civilian violence to hit the restive region since 2010, when mass protests broke out against the Indian rule.
Wani joined the HM group at the age of just 15, and was viewed as a hero by many in Kashmir. The state’s former chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted after his death that he had become the “new icon of Kashmir’s disaffected”.
Witnesses said tens of thousands attended his funeral on Saturday despite the curfew, chanting independence slogans and firing pistol shots in his honour.
Hizbul Mujahideen is one of several groups that for decades have been fighting around half a million Indian troops deployed in the region, calling for independence for Kashmir or a merger with Pakistan.
Kashmir has been divided between rivals India and Pakistan since 1947, but both claim the territory in its entirety.
Tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, have died in the fighting since 1989.
Violence has sharply declined in recent years following a major crackdown by the hundreds of thousands of forces deployed in the region.
But a recent uptick in militant attacks has galvanised frustrated young Kashmiris, many of whom deeply resent the military’s presence.
In recent months, there have been several instances of protesters converging on the scene of gun-battles, throwing stones and hurling abuse at security forces to provide a distraction and enable trapped rebels to escape.