More Protests In Srinagar, Indian Forces Use Tear Gas
Indian forces used tear gas against stone-throwing residents in Srinagar on Friday, after a third straight week of protests in the restive Soura district despite the imposition of tight restrictions.
Paramilitary police tried to enter Soura, which has emerged as a centre of the protests, as hundreds of Kashmiris staged a protest march against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to withdraw autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir on Aug 5, Reuters reported.
Posters appeared overnight this week in Srinagar, calling for a march to the office of the U.N. Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), to protest against India’s decision.
In a narrow lane of Soura, blocked like many others with rocks and sheets of metal, residents hurled stones at the paramilitary police to stop them moving into an area around the local mosque, Jinab Sahib, which had earlier been packed for Friday prayers.
The police responded with several rounds of tear gas and chili grenades but were beaten back by dozens of stone-pelting men. Some men suffered pellet injuries.
The locals said the security forces had been repeatedly trying to move into Soura, often using tear gas and pellets.
“We are neither safe at home, nor outside,” said Rouf, who declined to give his full name. He had rubbed salt into his face to counteract the effects of tear gas.
The afternoon had begun peacefully, with men and women streaming into Jinab Sahib for afternoon prayers. A cleric then raised a call for “Azadi” – Urdu for freedom – several times, and declared Kashmir’s allegiance to neighbouring Pakistan.
“Long live Pakistan,” the cleric said, as worshippers roared back in approval.
At least 152 people have been hurt by teargas and pellets since security forces launched their crackdown, data from the Himalayan region’s two main hospitals shows.
Large swathes of Srinagar remain deserted with shops shut except for some provision stores with shutters half-down. Police vans patrolled some areas announcing a curfew and asking people to stay indoors.
Earlier, The New York Times reported local officials as saying that at least 2,000 Kashmiris — including business leaders, human rights defenders, elected representatives, teachers, and students as young as 14 — were rounded up by the federal security forces in the days right before and after the revocation of autonomy.
The detainees have not been able to communicate with their families or meet with lawyers. Their whereabouts remain unknown. Most were taken in the middle of the night, witnesses said.
“Kashmir is silent as a graveyard,” said Vrinda Grover, a human rights lawyer.
The Indian government isn’t sharing what charges the detainees face or how long they will be held. Some were reported to have been flown on military flights to jails in Lucknow, Varanasi and Agra.
Large numbers of troops have been moving on both sides of the border, fortifying positions in the Himalayan Mountains, according to Western intelligence officials.
The Indian Home Ministry will not answer questions about the mass arrests, including how many people have been taken into custody. The Foreign Ministry won’t say why foreign journalists continue to be blocked from setting foot in Kashmir, even when government officials insist the situation is returning to normal.
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