Civilians entangled in Kashmir
The state government in Indian Kashmir criticizes the police for the April 3 killing of protesters.
As spring approaches and the snows melt on the Himalayan peaks, India and Pakistan are eyeball to eyeball over the Kashmir Valley.Skip to next paragraph
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Last May brought a small war in Kashmir between the two new nuclear powers. This year, after the visit of President Clinton to South Asia, and with US warnings over increased violence in the hotly disputed land, the two sides are gauging each other's intentions.
On the ground in Kashmir, however, tensions are already reaching the boiling point. Based on a series of events seemingly set off by the US president's visit itself, the crisis involves the Indian security forces as much as it does the Pakistani-based militants who cross the border.
The spark was set off as Mr. Clinton arrived in India on March 20. At twilight on that day, 35 men in a Sikh village in south Kashmir were massacred by two dozen unidentified gunmen wearing tattered Indian Army uniforms and drinking whisky. On March 25 an Indian Army unit in the vicinity shot five men it says were some of the "foreign mercenaries" who killed the Sikhs. The plot thickens.
The next day, March 26, nearby villagers reported five missing men. They accused the Indian Army of killing them. The Army denied it. The villagers demanded to see the bodies of the five males. The Army says it burned and buried the bodies and cannot identify them. The villagers say they want the bodies exhumed and checked with DNA tests. The military balked. Then on April 3, with emotions rising, 5,000 angry locals march toward the main town of Anantnag, 34 miles south of Srinagar, the Indian state capital of Jammu and Kashmir, to protest. Fearing militants in the crowd, jittery Indian special police units opened fire, killing seven according to state officials - bringing tensions to new heights.
More eyes on Kashmir
During Clinton's trip to India, world attention focused on the 53-year Kashmiri dispute. In India, the Clinton visit was one of near euphoria, while it brought gloom in Pakistan. The US president sent a clear warning to Pakistani ruler Gen. Pervez Musharraf to stop supporting the jihad, or holy war, by Islamic mujahideen who infiltrate Kashmir, and to respect the current "line of control" that operates as a border between the two sides. General Musharraf had hoped the president would convince India to negotiate on Kashmir.
Instead, the US position seemed to echo the long-held Indian one: That Kashmir is an internal matter and cannot be mediated by outside parties.
But violence between the Indian security forces and civilians in the Kashmir Valley in the past week show another side to the crisis: the uglier face of the Indian suppression of dissent in Kashmir, and the widespread discontent of what Kashmiri insurgents refer to as the "occupation" by the 700,000 strong Indian Army. In recent months India has taken further steps to crack down on a bolder strategy of attacks by militants - called a "zero tolerance" approach by New Delhi.