By Zahid Rafiq
SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir, India, (AA): Thousands of unarmed civilians in the disputed Jammu and Kashmir took to the streets in massive pro-Independence demonstrations and clashed with the Indian forces in the region after the killing of four Kashmiri militants and one civilian by Indian forces during a gun-battle on Sunday morning. Three Indian soldiers were also killed in the morning gun-battle.
As soon as news spread about the killing of four Kashmiri militants in Frisal village in Kulgam district in the morning, people came out in protests. According to eyewitnesses, the Indian forces shot at the civilian protestors, killing one and wounding several others.
The Indian police, in a statement on Sunday evening, confirmed the death of the civilian but kept quiet about the injuries to the dozens of civilians.
“In the aftermath of encounter, law and order situation occurred in which some individuals sustained injuries. Among the injured, one person identified as Mushtaq Ibrahim Itoo, a resident of Hatigam, succumbed to his injuries. In this connection investigation is going on,” the police statement said.
Soon after the bodies of the slain militants were returned to their families, thousands of people participated in their funeral prayers. Eyewitnesses told Anadolu Agency that several villages across the south Kashmir resounded with pro-independence slogans asking for Kashmir’s independence from Indian rule.
“In villages across Kulgam, Anantnag, Pulwama, thousands of people went out on streets calling for Aazadi (freedom) from India and hailing the martyrs. It was just like it was during the uprising summer last year when hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets,” Mohsin Ahmad Rather, a 27-year-old college student from Frisal in Kulgam, told Anadolu Agency.
The resistance leadership called for a shutdown to be observed on Monday and also called for a Kulgam chalo (rally to Kulgam)- where the gun-battle happened and most of the civilian injuries took place.
“Leaders strongly condemn the use of brute force against civilians in Kulgam. The Indian forces action is the worst kind of state terrorism and such merciless acts will never be tolerated and we are obliged to resent and raise our voice against state sponsored terrorism,” a statement by the United camp of pro-independence leadership said.
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 Kashmiris have been killed so far in the violence, most of them by Indian forces. India maintains over half a million soldiers in the disputed Jammu and Kashmir.
[Archive Photo: Kashmiris protest in Srinagar, Jamuu & Kashmir, India in July 2015. Photographer: Faisal Khab/AA]