Kashmir civilian killings: At least 500 detained in J&K amid massive crackdown on ‘targeted’ deaths

By The Associated Press

SRINAGAR: Government forces have detained at least 500 people in a massive crackdown in Indian-controlled Kashmir, local officials said on Sunday, following suspected terrorist attacks and targeted killings in the disputed region.

Three Hindus and a Sikh man were fatally shot by assailants in the region’s main city of Srinagar this week, sparking a sudden escalation in violence against civilians that has been widely condemned by both pro-India and anti-India Kashmiri politicians. Of.

The local police blamed the killings on militants who had been fighting against Indian rule in the region for decades. Officials said they have detained more than 500 people for questioning in the Kashmir Valley over the past three days, most of whom are locked down from the main city of Srinagar.

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Police say militants of The Resistance Front, or TRF, insurgent group have shot dead seven people since last week, raising the death toll in such attacks this year to 28. Among those killed were 21 Muslims, of whom seven belonged to Hindu and Sikh minority communities.

Speaking to reporters recently, Dilbag Singh, the area’s top police officer, described the killings as a “conspiracy to create panic and communal rift”.

The TRF claimed in a statement on social media on Thursday that the group was targeting those working for Indian authorities, and was not choosing targets on the basis of trust. The insurgent group’s statement could not be independently verified.

Indian officials say that the TRF is the local front of the Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist group based in Pakistan. The cell was formed in 2019 after India stripped the region of its semi-autonomous status, scrapped its statehood, and imposed months of massive security and communications lockdown.

Read also | ‘Some have started leaving’: Kashmiri Pandits fear that attacks on minorities in J&K will resume in 1990

Kashmir has remained on the edge ever since the authorities have also enacted several new laws, which have led critics and many Kashmiris to fear that the demographics of the region may change.

Last week’s killing sparked widespread fear among minority communities, with many Hindu families opting to leave the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley. Those killed included a prominent Kashmiri Hindu chemist, two school teachers of Hinduism and Sikhism, and a Hindu street food vendor from India’s eastern state of Bihar.

According to the police, those detained in the ensuing action include members of religious groups, anti-India activists and “overground workers”, a term used by Indian authorities to describe militant sympathizers and allies.

The Himalayan region of Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan. Both nuclear-armed arch-rival powers claim this outright.

In the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir, the rebels have been fighting New Delhi’s rule since 1989. Most Muslims support the rebel goal of uniting the Kashmiri region, either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.

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