Indian Army deployed to quell deadly Kashmir protests
The Indian Army moved into the northern city of Srinagar to clamp down on clashes between police and protesters that left at least three dead Tuesday. Elsewhere along the India-Pakistan border Wednesday, crossfire killed three troops.
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Troops were sent in to help police and paramilitary forces control protests that intensified after police opened fire on a demonstration in the provincial capital of Srinagar on Tuesday, killing three people, reports the Associated Press. Police imposed a curfew on Srinigar on Tuesday; much of the rest of Kashmir is already under a curfew.
Protests have flared since June 11, when a tear-gas shell fired by police killed a student. Kashmiri residents say police have killed as many as 15 protesters in the past month. It is the latest chapter in the unrest in Kashmir, an area claimed by both India and Pakistan. Tens of thousands of people have died in the conflict.
A 2003 cease-fire agreement between Pakistan and India held until last year, when numerous exchanges of gunfire were reported. On Wednesday, south of Kashmir along the border with Pakistan's Punjab Province, an exchange of military fire killed two Indian troops and wounded a Pakistani soldier, reports Reuters. India has long accused Pakistan of backing militants in Kashmir, although there was no direct link between Wednesday's crossfire and the protests in Kashmir.
Agence France-Presse reports that Indian Kashmir officials requested the troops be sent in to control the situation. Residents continued to clash with police Wednesday, reports the Indian Express. Paramilitary forces trying to enforce the curfew fired on stone-throwing protesters across Srinigar, according to the news service.
The Indian newspaper The Hindu reports that the troops were called because police were spread too thin to deal with the protests – many are deployed on counterterrorism operations, reports the paper. Journalists were also denied access to Kashmir.
Indian media reports that a fourth person may have been killed by police Tuesday. The New Delhi Chronicle reports that the protesters massed together after locals found the corpse of a youth who had jumped into a stream to escape security forces. The Indian Express, meanwhile, reports that the youth may have been taken away by police Monday, before his body was found Tuesday.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh convened a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security on Wednesday to discuss the violence in Kashmir, reports The Times of India. The BBC reports that much of the Kashmir valley has been under a curfew for the past few weeks as the protests over killing of civilians by security forces grow:
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has defended the security forces, saying they could not be expected constantly to show restraint when they were so often pelted with stones.
The killings of civilian protesters, most of them teenagers, have angered many in the valley.
One newspaper headline described 2010 as the "year of teenage killings" in Kashmir.
An editorial in The Hindu criticizes the provincial government of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) for relying on the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force instead of normal police:
[T]he death toll has exposed J&K’s incapacity to contain the street violence, except through brutal suppression. In some cases, as video footage makes clear, the lives of police personnel were under imminent threat. In others, lethal force appears to have been used because of panic, lapses in planning, and poor training. Instead of working to develop effective, non-lethal crowd control forces of its own, J&K has relied heavily on the Central Reserve Police Force – an overworked organization called upon to discharge a bewildering array of counter-terrorism, protection, and riot-control duties. The State government has 32,000 armed police personnel to deal with such crises. But to avoid public opprobrium, it has chosen not to take the lead role.