Jammu Kashmir still on lockdown after civilian deaths

Following protesters’ deaths earlier this week, Indian-held Jammu Kashmir remains paralyzed by general strike, army-imposed curfews

Jammu Kashmir still on lockdown after civilian deaths

World Bulletin / News Desk

The Indian-occupied Kashmir region remained completely paralyzed for the fourth consecutive day Saturday amid a general strike held to protest the recent killing of protesters by Indian security forces.

For the last two days, the Indian government has imposed curfews in several parts of the region while cutting mobile-phone and Internet access.

On April 12, Mohammad Iqbal, 24, Nayeem Ahmad, 22, and Raja Begum, a 60-year-old woman, were shot dead during protests held against the alleged molestation of a Kashmiri girl by an Indian soldier in the town of Handwara in northern Jammu Kashmir some 100 kilometers from regional capital Srinagar.

The deaths brought thousands of youths onto the streets across the region, shouting anti-India slogans and clashing with Indian security forces, who in several places opened fire on protesters.

On April 13, another youth, Jehangir Ahmad, was killed in Dragmulla, Kupwara after being struck in the head by a teargas canister, further increasing tension in the region.

Two days later, 18-year-old Arif Ahmad was killed after Indian forces opened fire on demonstrators in Kupwara, while a number of others sustained bullet injuries.

The region’s pro-independence leadership, meanwhile, has maintained calls for an ongoing general strike, while Indian security forces have imposed a curfew in several areas in a bid to prevent large numbers of people from gathering.

The girl whose alleged molestation triggered the protests, along with her father, is currently in police custody.

The Indian security forces have since released a video in which the girl’s identity is revealed and in which she states that she was not molested by soldiers.

"Revealing the identity of a sexual abuse victim -- and minor -- is illegal under Indian law," human rights activist Khurram Parvez said.

"Since then, they have held her [in police custody], not allowing her access to legal assistance," Parvez added.

On Saturday, the girl's family attempted to hold a press conference in Srinagar, but police prevented them from speaking to journalists.

"We have orders not to allow the family to speak to anyone because we don’t know what they will say," an Indian police official told reporters.

The girl’s mother, for her part, said her daughter had been molested by an Indian soldier before being dragged to a police station where she was forced to make a statement exonerating the army of any wrongdoing.

"People reacted to the abuse of my daughter by asking for the army man to be arrested," the girl’s mother, insisting on anonymity due to fears of reprisal, said.

"But the police and army killed the people who stood up for her," the distressed mother said.

"To save the image of the Indian army, they forced my daughter to give a statement under duress and since then have held her in 'protective custody'," she added.

"I want my daughter back; I am afraid she will suffer further abuse and torture there [i.e., in police custody]. I am not being allowed to see my daughter and husband," she said.

Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China.

Pakistan and India have fought three wars -- in 1948, 1965 and 1971 -- since the partition of the latter in 1947.

Two of the conflicts were fought over Kashmir.

Since 1989, Kashmiri resistance groups in Indian-occupied Kashmir (Jammu Kashmir) have fought Indian occupation to demand independence or unification with neighboring Pakistan.

Tens of thousands of Kashmiris have reportedly been killed in the violence, most of them by Indian forces.

India currently maintains an estimated 500,000 troops in Jammu Kashmir.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 17 Nisan 2016, 09:10
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