|Battleground Pampore, off Srinanagar|
Top US daily “Washington Post” reports, against the backdrop of “suspected militants” taking refuge in government building off Pampore, the saffron rich town in the outskirts of Srinagar, that the latest round of the unrest in the Kashmir valley has prompted India go in for its “biggest crackdown” in decades in the state.
Aijaz Hussain, an Associated Press correspondent, reports in the daily, “Anxious to quell anti-India protests in Kashmir, Indian forces are carrying out their most severe crackdown in more than two decades against civilian protesters, arresting more than 8,000 this summer across the disputed Himalayan territory.”
Pointing out that his “includes 450 or so civilians being held, possibly for up to six months without trial, under a harsh security law criticized as a human rights violation”, the report says, this is happening because India believes that “the separatist rebels — and civilians who help them — are undermining the country’s territorial integrity.”
Insisting that this is “forcing” the authorities to keep the Kashmir valley under “tight control”, the report quotes a senior police official, who says, “This is, so far, the biggest crackdown against miscreants.” The police officer, the report adds, wanted to remain “anonymity because he was not authorized to share details of the crackdown.”
Worse, the daily says, “For weeks, Indian authorities have carried out nighttime raids, rolling curfews and stops at roadblocks, but have failed to stop the rebel attacks and angry public rallies”, adding, at Pampore, despite “gunshots and grenade blasts”, one found “scores of people gathered on nearby streets to chant anti-India slogans in a show of solidarity with the rebels.”
Earlier, the report says, in February, “five soldiers, three militants and a civilian were killed in a three-day standoff in the same government compound”, underlining, “India has faced a separatist challenge in Kashmir since 1947, when India and neighbouring Pakistan gained independence.”
Refusing to take sides, the report says, while “India accuses Pakistan of arming and training rebels to cross the heavily militarized border that divides the region between the two countries”, as for Pakistan, “it denies the allegation and says it offers the rebels only moral support.” However, it adds, “most people” in the Kashmir Valley are in “favour independence or a merger with Pakistan.
The report says, more than “68,000 people have been killed in the armed uprising and ensuing Indian military crackdown” the report says, “While anti-India protests are somewhat common during warmer summer months, this year’s have been especially fraught amid widespread anger over the killing of a popular rebel commander by Indian forces in July.”
“India has responded with a clampdown that has nearly paralyzed daily life”, the report says, adding, “More than 80 civilians have been killed and thousands injured in clashes with police and paramilitary troops. Two policemen have also been killed and hundreds of government forces injured in the clashes.”
“Officers are still hunting for at least 1,500 more people suspected of participating in protests”, the report says, adding, “Rights activists expressed alarm over the government’s targeting of protesters.” It quotes human rights lawyer Pervez Imron as saying, “This crackdown marks the Indian government’s failure to reach a political solution of the issue.”
Activists have long campaigned against India’s armed forces special powers act, which gives troops sweeping powers to interrogate or shoot suspects on sight. Also, under the draconian act, federal army and paramilitary soldiers cannot be prosecuted in civilian courts unless federal approval is granted.