Indian forces remove Pakistani flags raised by Kashmiris
SRINAGAR, INDIA // Government forces in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir removed dozens of black and Pakistani flags hoisted by residents observing a “black day” on Wednesday to protest the killing of a top rebel leader.
Indian forces feared fresh trouble in the tense region after Pakistan called for observing a “black day” to express solidarity with “Kashmiris who are facing atrocities at the hands of Indian forces”.
The largest street protests in recent years erupted after Indian troops on July 8 killed Burhan Wani, the popular 22-year-old leader of Kashmir’s largest rebel group.
Police and paramilitary soldiers in riot gear enforced a strict curfew for the 12th straight day on Wednesday as life remained paralysed and streets deserted in the disputed region.
India’s external affairs ministry responded to Pakistan’s call for a “black day” by saying Islamabad should stop “interfering in India’s internal affairs and destabilising the situation”. Pakistan says it provides political, moral and diplomatic support to Kashmiris and anti-India rebels who demand Kashmir’s independence or a merger with Pakistan.
Responding to prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s appeal, Pakistanis held rallies around the country, including in its portion of Kashmir, to condemn alleged human rights violations in areas of the region India controls.
Mr Sharif said “Kashmir cannot be accepted as an internal matter of India” as the United Nations has already declared it a disputed area. Mr Sharif said India had promised to the world to arrange a plebiscite in Indian-controlled Kashmir, but such a commitment was yet to be honoured.
During the recent protests, clashes between government forces and Kashmiris have killed 47 people, mostly teenagers and young men, and a policeman. Nearly 2,000 civilians and about 1,600 government troops have been injured.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, which both claim it entirely and have fought two wars over the Himalayan region since 1947. The region is predominantly Muslim and many residents resent the presence of hundreds of thousands of Indian troops.
Since 1989, more than 68,000 people have been killed in Kashmir’s uprising against Indian rule and the subsequent Indian military crackdown.
* Associated Press
Published: July 20, 2016 04:00 AM