Indian police report 7 killed in Kashmir fighting

SRINAGAR—Six suspected rebels and a soldier were killed during two separate clashes in Indian-administered Kashmir overnight, police said Thursday, rounding off another bloody year in the disputed territory. Indian police said the six killed in two villages belonged to the Pakistan-based Islamist group Jaish-e-Mohammad, claiming two of them were Pakistani nationals. India has long accused Pakistan of facilitating cross-border attacks in the territory, which has been divided between the two since 1947 and which both claim in full.

Islamabad denies the charge. Rebel groups have fought Indian forces for over three decades, demanding freedom for Kashmir or its merger with Pakistan, which has controlled part of the region since after independence. A police statement issued Thursday said one of the four government forces personnel wounded in the clashes died of bullet injuries in a hospital.

ADVERTISEMENT Officials say that at least 380 militants, nearly 100 civilians, and over 80 security forces personnel have been killed in the region since August 2019. That was when New Delhi revoked the region’s limited autonomy and brought it under direct rule, adding to anger among locals and galvanising support for self-determination.

This year the death toll was 264, compared to 321 in 2020, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal. Police say that with intensified military operations against the rebels, the number of local fighters has dropped to fewer than 100 for the first time in a decade. Local police chief Vijay Kumar told the Economic Times daily this week that some 70 percent of the youth who joined militant ranks this year “were either killed or arrested”.

Most of those arrested are being held under anti-terror legislation called the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). The law allows people to be held for six months–often rolled over–without being charged and bail is virtually impossible. One of those–in custody since November–is Khurram Parvez, programme coordinator for respected rights group the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS).

AFP On December 1 the UN Human Rights Office criticised the arrest and said that the UAPA “raises serious concerns relating to the right of presumption of innocence along with other due process and fair trial rights.” The Indian government said the statement “betrays a complete lack of understanding on the part of the OHCHR of the security challenges faced by India from cross-border terrorism”.

India has an estimated 500,000 soldiers deployed in Kashmir, and the two countries have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir, coming close to another in 2016.

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