World Bulletin / News Desk
Indian-held Kashmir observed a complete shutdown on Wednesday as protests were held against a string of apparently politically-motivated civilian murders.
Since May 25 six civilians, some with past links to armed groups, were killed in the northern Kashmiri district of Sopore, leading Kashmiri independence groups to call for protests against the deaths, which they described as the “handiwork of the Indian intelligence agencies to weaken the Kashmiri freedom movement.”
Schools, businesses, government offices and shops were closed in the Kashmiri capital Srinagar as well as in most other districts as part of the shutdown.
Sopore, known for its pro-independence sentiment, has been tense and close to the edge over the past week, which saw four of the six killings.
While police have blamed organization Hizbul Mujahideen for the killings, the group itself has condemned them and blamed the Indian government and intelligence agencies.
On Monday night, police put up posters of two local militants and offered a reward of 1 million rupees ($16,000) each for information that would lead to their arrest.
People in Sopore, however, tore down most of the posters, calling them a government “gimmick.” The town, overwhelmed with fear and brimming with a latent anger, has been observing three consecutive days of shutdown, with regular clashes between Kashmiri youth and Indian armed forces.
“We know these tricks of India by now. They have been at it for years and years. Why would militants kill common people like shopkeepers and especially those who have been militants and have suffered through prison terms? We have little doubt that it is a game by the Indian agencies,” Yasir Shah, a student protesting in Sopore, told Anadolu Agency.
All four killed in the last week had some connection with the pro-independence movement, either as ex-militants or active pro-independence political activists.
Many Kashmiris, including the families of the victims and pro-independence activists, have claimed the government has renewed its use of violent pro-government militias known as Ikhwan.
“This has become quite clear now that the new phase of Ikhwani period has formally started. While they are killing pro-freedom people, they have started to kill the common people as they used to do in 1990s,” Syed Ali Shah Geelani, chairman of the pro-independence Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, told Anadolu Agency.
“It is even clearer when you look at what the Indian defense minister said last month, that they would use terrorists to kill terrorists and go for targeted killings in Kashmir,” Geelani said.
A senior police official told Anadolu Agency the situation was complex and that despite them publicly accusing the militants, they have no evidence to support their claims.
“Maybe the militants killed the first man but then we have no surety that it was not hijacked by someone else who then went on the killing spree. But what is important is that a sort of a dark alley has been created through which anyone could walk in and kill anyone. And everyone would say that it was done by unidentified gunmen and each side would blame the other,” a senior police official told Anadolu Agency.
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 Indian-held Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence or unification with neighboring Pakistan.***Last Mod: 17 Haziran 2015, 18:13