SRINAGAR — Massive anti-India protests erupted in several parts of the Indian occupied Kashmir on Sunday. At least 20 people are dead and 70 injured in a single day. Officials in Kashmir say this is the restive region’s worst loss of life during a single day in recent years.
At least 20 civilians are killed and dozens injured in the latest round of anti-India protests, which broke out after Indian troops launched brutal operations targeting mainly the southern parts of disputed Kashmir, where youngsters have revived militancy and challenged New Delhi’s rule in the valley.
In recent years, Kashmiris, mainly youths, have displayed open solidarity with anti-India fighters. Thousands of Kashmiris hit the streets on Sunday, chanting anti-India slogans and demanding an end to Indian rule over Kashmir as Indian troops launched operations in three southern villages.
By the time, authorities handed over the bodies of some of the slain rebels to their families, tens of thousands had gathered to attend their funerals while shouting slogans like “Go India, go back” and “We want freedom.”
At least 11 militants, including some commanders, were killed in two separate gunbattles in the Shopian area, while one rebel was killed and another captured in Anantnag, said top police officer S.P. Vaid.
While eighteen of the dead militants were identified as local cadres of Kashmir’s largest rebel group, Hizbul Mujahideen, troops were still clearing off the rubble of a destroyed house at a third gunbattle site where bodies of three militants were lying, Vaid said.
Local residents said soldiers blasted several civilian homes with explosives while fighting the militants. Top Kashmiri leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said Sunday’s violence was “more havoc for Kashmiris, who are at the receiving end of execution and repression.”
“Kashmiris will continue to die or be forced to pick up arms for resistance as long as India addresses the political and humanitarian problem of Kashmir through a military approach and through force,” he said. As the fighting raged, anti-India protests erupted in several villages in southern Kashmir.
According to hospital officials and police, fourteen civilians were killed and dozens injured, many hit in their eyes by pellets.
Authorities stopped train services and cut cellphone internet services in the most restive towns, and reduced connection speeds in other parts of the Kashmir Valley, a common government practice aimed to calm tensions and prevent anti-India demonstrations from being organized. They also ordered curfews in some southern areas. and officials ordered all schools and colleges closed on Monday to stop anti-India protests by the students.
Separatist leaders who challenge India’s sovereignty over Kashmir have called for a shutdown on Monday against the killings.
Pakistan condemned Sunday’s violence and expressed solidarity with Kashmiris. “This mindless killing spree exposes, yet again, the ugly, inhuman face of the state-terrorism that India has been perpetrating against the Kashmiris for decades,” Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Locals have been fighting Indian rule since 1989, demanding Kashmir be made part of Pakistan or become an independent country. Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.