ISLAMABAD/NEW DELHI: Several hundred Kashmiri protesters tried to storm a military airbase in India-held Kashmir on Monday as the death toll in clashes between Indian security forces and demonstrators reached 30, while Pakistan and India traded allegations over the violent situation.

Thousands of people again defied the curfew imposed across the valley to take to the streets and tried to storm the Indian Air Force base, about 25km south of Srinagar, as the worst civilian unrest since 2010 spread. The protesters also set police stations and vehicles on fire, according to AFP.

Police said Indian security personnel fired live ammunition and tear gas to try to enforce the curfew. The deceased were mainly protesters killed by gunshot wounds, they added.

There were also reports of injured protesters being targeted, as one local doctors association said tear gas canisters had been fired inside a hospital emergency room.

Another group, the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition for Civil Society, alleged that police had attacked ambulances taking the wounded to hospital.

While the authorities cut off internet and mobile phone networks in a bid to quell the protests, those leading the demonstrations said the protests be extended by two more days and called a rally in Srinagar on Friday, according to AFP.

Indian HC summoned

Demanding a probe into what it described as ‘extra-judicial killings’, Pakistan’s Foreign Office on Monday summoned Indian High Commissioner Gautam Bam­bawale to convey its “serious concerns” over the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani and dozens of protesters in clashes during the past few days.

Death toll in Srinagar clashes reaches 30 as India and Pakistan trade allegations

“The use of excessive force against innocent civilians protesting peacefully over extrajudicial killings, is deplorable and a blatant violation of the Right to Life, Right to Freedom of Expression and Opinion, Right to Peaceful Protest, Right to Peaceful Assembly and other fundamental rights,” Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry told Mr Bambawale.

India’s response to call for restraint

Responding sharply to Pakistan’s call for restraint in India-held Kashmir, India’s spokesperson on Monday told Islamabad to desist from interfering in the internal affairs of its neighbours, reports said.

“We have seen statements from Pakistan on the situation in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. They reflect Pakistan’s continued attachment to terrorism and its usage as an instrument of state policy,” India’s spokesperson Vikas Swarup was quoted as saying.

“Pakistan is advised to refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of its neighbours.”

The use of the plural ‘neighbours’ is believed to play on Pakistan’s troubled ties not only with India but also with Afghanistan.

Indian news outfits have even sought to blame Pakistan for the recent Dhaka massacre of foreigners by a bunch of Bangladeshi extremists.

Earlier, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had expressed deep shock at the killing of Burhan Wani by the Indian security forces.

“The prime minister of Pakistan has expressed his deep shock at the killing of Kashmiri leader Burhan Wani and many other civilians by the Indian military and paramilitary forces,” Mr Sharif’s office said in the statement.

Mr Sharif said it was “deplorable that excessive and unlawful force was used against the civilians” who were protesting against the killing of Wani.

“Oppressive measures such as these cannot deter the valiant people of Jammu and Kashmir from their demand of exercising their right to self-determination in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions,” he said.

Meanwhile, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, winding up his four-nation African tour in Kenya on Monday, blamed preachers of hatred for the spread of terrorism in the world. Indian media reports said Mr Modi was referring to Mumbai-based controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik, seen in Bangladesh as an inspiration for the growing extremism in that country.

Published in Dawn, July 12th, 2016


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