Indian forces killed five suspected militants in held Kashmir on Sunday, police said, as the second day of anti-India protests left a civilian dead and scores of people injured.
Hundreds of villagers threw rocks at Indian troops in a bid to help suspected militants who were trapped in a civilian home in southern Shopian area, police said. Counterinsurgency officers and soldiers cordoned the village following intelligence that a group of militants were hiding there, police said.
As the militants and soldiers fought, government forces also fired bullets, shotgun pellets and tear gas at the protesters who tried to reach the gunbattle site. At least 14 civilians were injured and one died after being brought to a hospital.
Residents made several attempts to reach the site, barraging troops with rocks, bricks and abuse. They were trying to distract the soldiers who apart from guns and grenades also used explosives to blast the house where the rebels were cornered, residents and police said.
After several hours of fighting, five militants were killed and a policeman and a soldier wounded, claimed S.P. Vaid, police director-general. Anti-India protests and clashes continued in the area.
Among the slain reported militants were a top commander and a university assistant professor who formally joined the militant ranks just two days ago. A statement by the University of Kashmir on Saturday said the sociology teacher, Mohammed Rafi Bhat, had been missing since Friday.
Vaid said they repeatedly asked the militants to surrender. “We made every effort so that they surrender. We even brought the university teacher’s father all the way to Shopian. But they refused,” Vaid said.
Most Kashmiris support the militants’ cause while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian control. In recent years, mainly young Kashmiris have displayed open solidarity with militants and sought to protect them by engaging troops in street clashes during military operations.
Last year, at least 29 civilians were killed and hundreds wounded during such clashes.
Shops and businesses shuttered in most parts of Kashmir following a strike call by separatists against Saturday’s killings of a civilian and three rebels in the disputed region’s main city of Srinagar.
Internet on mobile phones also remained suspended for the second day, a common practice by Indian authorities to make organising protests more difficult. Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan each administer part of Kashmir, but both claim it in its entirety. Militants have been fighting Indian rule since 1989, demanding Indian-held Kashmir be made part of Pakistan or become an independent country.
In recent years, Kashmir has seen renewed attacks and repeated public protests against Indian rule as a new generation of Kashmiri people, especially in the southern parts of the region, has revived the militancy and challenged New Delhi’s rule with guns and effective use of social media.
Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.