Kashmir protests: Chief minister summoned to capital after 'Bloody Sunday'
Kashmir protests yesterday, dubbed Bloody Sunday, brought the civilian death toll to 33. Kashmir leader Omar Abdullah was summoned to New Dehli to discuss how to regain control, but he wields little influence with the young protesters.
Srinagar and New Delhi, India
In what the Indian media are calling Bloody Sunday, 10 people died yesterday in protests across Indian-controlled Kashmir.Skip to next paragraph
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Police forces shot and killed at least five during street protests. Another succumbed to wounds after being hit Saturday with a tear gas shell. The remainder died when protesters lit a police camp on fire, triggering a blast from explosive material kept inside. All who died were civilians, taking the total to 33 civilians and zero police killed in the current cycle of protest and deadly crackdown that began June 11.
The protests are part of a popular uprising against Indian rule and heavy-handed police tactics in Kashmir. Both India and Pakistan claim the Himalayan region in its entirety. In the 1990s, Pakistan supported a violent insurgency that was eventually put down by India. But the massive security apparatus – estimated to be as high as 700,000 security forces – remained.
The recent uprising appears to have no links to Pakistan. Instead, it is led by Kashmiri youth ranging from six to 30 who are using a mix of nonviolent defiance of curfews and rock throwing at security forces in a bid to win independence for Kashmir.
Veteran Kashmiri journalist Parvaiz Bukhari in the main city of Srinagar says the past weekend marks a serious escalation in this summer’s protest activity.
“This is the first time we’ve seen so many people defying curfew,” says Mr. Bukhari, noting that crowds remained out until 2:30 am in Srinagar and other parts of the valley.
He says that thousands converged on Srinagar’s symbolic “martyr’s cemetery,” named for those killed in the separatist struggle. And protesters attempted to torch a police station and ransacked the local administrative building in Uri, a town near the Line of Control with Pakistan that’s usually under tight control of the military.
Why Kashmir's state minister wields little influence
The state’s chief minister appealed for calm.
“I know young people are angry … they see no hope. I want to lead them… but only if my government gets a chance to work,” said Omar Abdullah in a broadcast message.
Abdullah wields no influence among the frustrated youth interviewed by the Monitor recently. Instead, young people are listening to separatist leaders, to elders who know the history, and to each other through social media.
One history lesson from the elders, men like physics teacher Arshad Ahmed, is that violent separatism has been tried. The 1990s, he says, was “the moment of the militants who are supported by the people. Now this is the movement of the people themselves.”
“We are trying to talk in their language,” he says, referring to Indians. “We are trying to talk in the language of Gandhi.”