World Bulletin / News Desk
“Did the child [who was killed] go to the army camp to buy toffee? Had the 15-year-old boy [who was shot dead] in Damhal Hanjipora when he attacked a police station gone to fetch milk?” Mehbooba Mufti said in her first press conference since she took over as Kashmir’s chief minister around three months ago.
“Those people who are creating havoc, who are 5 percent [of the total population], we will deal with them according to the law. We won’t allow them to create problems for the majority of the population and make their lives hell. We will never allow them,” she added.
Mufti addressed reporters alongside Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh, in the disputed region on a two-day visit in hopes of restoring the government’s authority amid massive protests.
At least 68 civilians have been killed and over 6,000 wounded in the Indian crackdown on a massive pro-independence uprising triggered by last month’s killing of a Kashmiri militant commander by Indian forces.
Since then, tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets shouting anti-India and pro-independence slogans and throwing stones at Indian forces.
The government has so far responded only by the use of force: imposing a 24-hour curfew now in its 48th day, rushing several thousand more soldiers from India, and using live fire and pellet guns (buckshot) on the protesters.
At the press conference, it seemed clear that the Indian government has decided to continue using force to quell the pro-independence protests.
Singh said he had met with more than 300 people over the last two days to find a solution to the situation.
The pro-independence leadership who are in charge on the ground, however, continued to face arrest.
After facing a flurry of tough questions over not acknowledging the pro-independence nature of the protests, Mufti angrily called the press conference short and quickly left the room.
Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full.
The two countries have fought three wars -- in 1948, 1965, and 1971 -- since they were partitioned in 1947, two of which were fought over Kashmir.
Since 1989, Kashmiri resistance groups in IHK have been fighting against Indian rule for independence, or for unification with neighboring Pakistan.
More than 70,000 people have reportedly been killed in the conflict so far, most of them in the Indian Armed Forces’ counter-insurgency operations. India maintains more than half a million troops in the disputed region.