Killing of civilians fuels Kashmir anger
Just days ago, scenic Kashmir, torn by two decades of war, was near normal.
Thousands of tourists were flocking to the region and honeymooners were once again gliding in shikaras, small Kashmiri boats, across the mirror-calm Dal Lake.
The disputed Himalayan region has seen a significant drop in violence between Muslim rebels and security forces.
But now the Valley is again under siege in the backdrop of rising public anger.
A curfew has been imposed in the summer capital, Srinagar, to prevent violent anti-India demonstrations following the death of a teenager blamed on government forces.
Police and soldiers armed with assault rifles have blocked off lanes with razor wire and iron barricades to prevent protests after scores were hurt in pitched street battles.
Earlier, the killing of three villagers in an alleged fake gun battle by soldiers sparked off fresh anger in Kashmir prompting a pledge by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to improve human rights in Kashmir.
Last week Singh said troops have been strictly instructed to respect human rights in Kashmir.
“Sometimes innocent civilians suffer, but whenever such incidents happen it becomes necessary to act against those responsible. I’m aware of some complaints related to human rights,” Singh said during his visit to Kashmir.
But days later, another teenager Tufail Ahmad Matoo was killed allegedly by police.
Angered over the fresh killing, senior separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said that India will not be able to suppress Kashmir’s “liberation struggle” by resorting to brute force.
“Indian troops and agencies are killing innocent Kashmiri people with impunity,” he added.
Human Rights Watch also urged New Delhi to prosecute soldiers accused of killing three men during an alleged fake gunbattle.
Authorities in the past have denied systematic human rights violations in Kashmir and say they probe all such reports and punish the guilty.
Soldiers are patrolling deserted Kashmir streets while businesses, schools and government office are closed.
Many tourists are leaving over violence fears. Hotels and houseboats are reporting cancellations also.
The killings have again put Kashmir on boil and could trigger widespread protests across the Muslim-majority region where rebel violence is waning but anti-Indian sentiment still runs deep.
Will this fuel Kashmir anger and lead the disputed region to a fresh uprising?