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Iran Press TV

Indian forces lock down Kashmir, hold pro-independence leaders after weekend violence

Iran Press TV

Mon Dec 17, 2018 04:14PM

Indian authorities have locked down parts of the disputed region of Kashmir after seven people were killed and dozens more wounded in army fire in the restive Himalayan valley over the weekend.

Police and para-military forces on Monday imposed a total curfew in parts of Srinagar, the main city in the Muslim-majority region, to curb any unrest. Heavily-armed forces also put up barricades in various parts of Srinagar and were patrolling in the nearby district Pulwama.

"Restrictions are in place in some city areas and in Pulwama," media outlets quoted inspector general of police Swayam Prakash Pani as saying.

Businesses and schools across the divided Himalayan territory were closed for a third straight day. Mobile internet services were also suspended in some areas, and train services shut down to prevent protesters from massing in numbers.

This came as pro-independence leaders had called on the public to march on India's military headquarters in the disputed territory.

An Indian army spokesman, in a statement issued late Sunday, had urged the public to ignore the call to protest and blamed Pakistan for stoking unrest.

"Indian Army strongly condemns this call by Pak(istan) proxies and advises people not to fall prey to such designs of anti-national forces," the spokesman said.

Dozens of protesters, however, defied a curfew on Monday to march against the shooting death of seven civilians.

Police fired tear gas to drive back the angry demonstrators led by key pro-independence leaders who tried to reach the base in central Srinagar.

Key pro-independence leaders were arrested to stop them from marshalling other protesters.

Pro-Independence leaders Mohammad Yasin Malik and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said they were detained as they marched towards the army headquarters in Srinagar. Another leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, was also under house arrest, police said.

"Indian troops are killing Kashmiris," Malik told reporters as police in riot gear took him away in a white vehicle. "For the last many years they are on a killing spree."

Saturday's shooting has ignited fresh anger across the region, which has witnessed an increasingly violent public opposition to Indian rule.

Seven civilians were killed as Indian troops fired on protesters on December 15 after a gunfight left three pro-independence fighters and a soldier dead in the disputed region.

Indian forces say they have killed 242 armed pro-independence fighters this year in the region, while 101 civilians and 82 members of security forces have also lost their lives, making 2017 the bloodiest year in Kashmir in more than a decade.

Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a tweet that Indian authorities should prosecute those responsible for "indiscriminate use of force."

"Security forces are aware that villagers gather, protest during gunfights with Kashmir militants and have responsibility to ensure civilians are not at risk," Ganguly added.

India, which has half a million troops deployed in the region, has long accused Pakistan of funding and arming pro-independence fighters in Kashmir.

Islamabad has denied this, saying it only provides diplomatic support to Kashmiris fighting for self-determination.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has denounced Saturday's violence.

"Only dialogue and not violence and killings will resolve this conflict," Khan said, adding that his country would raise India's "human rights violations" at the United Nations.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the two gained independence from British rule in 1947. More than 70,000 people have died since an armed battle against Indian rule began in 1989.

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