Two gun battles in Kashmir left two civilians, five militants and two soldiers dead on Thursday, just two weeks into Ramadan with no call for ceasefire. Protests and anti-India slogans erupted throughout the valley with civilians alleging that the Indian Army has been using the locals as ‘human shields’. Once again, there is hue and cry over human rights violations in the conflict riddled state.
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An Indian Army spokesman, Colonel Rajesh Kalia said the first gun battle broke out in southern Pulwama town. Police and soldiers scoured the area looking for rebels. He said the police and soldiers came under heavy fire which led to a clash. This left a soldier and three militants dead.
According to various media reports, a civilian identified as Rayees Ahmad Dar, 32, was killed after the soldiers sent him to scout a house where militants were believed to be hiding. A police spokesman said Dar was killed because of indiscriminate firing by the militants and denied that the deceased had been sent ‘on a search’. Villagers have also alleged that the armed forces damaged a civilian house with explosives.
As a protest for Dar’s death, villagers threw rocks at security forces who reiterated with teargas shelling. And lawyers in the state’s high court went on a strike in protest over the civilian deaths. The armed forces were further challenged with hundreds of protesters trying to march to the site of the battle in support of the militants, that too despite security lockdown in the area. The armed forces tried to deter the protesters with tear gas but they were met with stones in return. However, there were no immediate reports of injuries.
The second gun battle ensued in a village near Shopian town, when the armed forces got a tip off about militants hiding in the area. The militants came out firing out of the house and tried to take refuge in a nearby apple orchard when the soldiers surrounded the area. One civilian, alleged by the armed forces to be an ‘active associate’ was killed with three militants.
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The Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) has once again challenged India’s sovereignty over Kashmir and criticized the government for no letup in the bloodshed even in Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month. The JRL said Kashmiris continue to pay the price of unresolved Kashmir issue.