Civilian killings spark protests in Kashmir
Daisy Begum is inconsolable, waiting with bated breath for her son Aqib Malik, 16, to come out of the intensive care unit of Srinagar’s Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital, where he has been in critical condition since Sunday.
Malik is one of several young men who were seriously injured on Sunday in the village of Larnoo, 75 km south of the city of Srinagar, by explosives and munitions left behind by Indian security forces after an encounter with militants.
Seven civilians were killed and more than 40 injured by shrapnel when locals gathered to see the site where the encounter took place.
“The blast occurred minutes after people gathered outside the house where the encounter took place,” Malik’s father told Arab News.
“Those who were inside their houses remained safe, but those who went outside became casualties.”
He blamed the police, asking: “How did this unfortunate incident happen? Isn’t this a deliberate attempt to scare people by hurting them?”
Dilbagh Singh, director general of police, said: “People, especially youths, should avoid going to gunfight sites or touching debris. We express sympathy with the families who lost their kin in the incident.”
Police on Tuesday arrested separatist leader Yasin Malik and his supporters in Srinagar when they tried to organize a protest march.
And leaders of the National Conference (NC), one of the mainstream political parties in Kashmir, were stopped when they came out to protest against the civilian killings.
“The government wants to suppress the voice of the people by putting restrictions on our rally,” Ali Mohammad Sagar, an NC leader, told Arab News.
He blamed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government for “targeting the common people with bullets,” adding: “You can win people with love, not by destruction. It’s only through dialogue that matters can be resolved.”
BJP spokesman Altaf Thakur blamed separatists and opposition parties for “politicizing the incident,” telling Arab News: “We’re also pained by the incident, but those who are trying to gain political mileage out of the tragedy are playing with the blood of the innocent victims.” He added: “People should understand that the encounter site isn’t a playground for kids.” Kashmir-based civil rights activist Khurram Parvez questioned the “impunity” enjoyed by security forces, which “have never been held accountable for extrajudicial killings and gross human rights violations.”
He blamed the BJP government for “pursuing a militaristic policy in Kashmir for electoral gains,” telling Arab News: “It’s a shame, for a country that boasts about being a democracy and a secular nation, if people are being lured by militaristic policies toward Kashmiris who happen to be Muslim.”
Journalist Manzoor-ul-Hassan, who visited the site of the incident, told Arab News: “There’s palpable anger among people. They hold security forces responsible for killing innocent civilians. It shows how casually Indian security forces take the lives of people in Kashmir.”
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned “the new cycle of killings of innocent Kashmiris… by Indian security forces.”
He tweeted: “It’s time India realize it must move to resolve the Kashmir dispute through dialogue in accordance with the UNSC (UN Security Council) resolutions & the wishes of the Kashmiri people.”
Raveesh Kumar, spokesman for India’s External Affairs Ministry, called the tweet “deeply regrettable” and urged the Pakistani leadership to “look inwards and address its own issues.”
Kumar called on Pakistan to take “credible action against all kinds of support for terrorism” within its own borders, “rather than supporting and glorifying terrorists and terror activities against India and its other neighbors.”