Amnesty calls for 'impartial' and 'independent' investigation into Kulgam encounter

Published October 25, 2018
Kashmiri men gesture as another lies on the ground after a blast near a residential house where three suspected militants were killed during a gunfight with Indian forces in Kulgam. —AFP/File
Kashmiri men gesture as another lies on the ground after a blast near a residential house where three suspected militants were killed during a gunfight with Indian forces in Kulgam. —AFP/File

Rights group Amnesty International India (AII) on Thursday called for authorities to conduct "effective, independent and impartial" investigations into an encounter in India-held Kashmir's (IHK) Kulgam area on Sunday which left at least 14 people dead.

On October 21, thousands of demonstrators, some hurling stones, marched on a village in Kulgam where Indian government forces were battling an unknown number of suspected Kashmiri fighters.

Three suspects were shot dead in the exchange but a subsequent explosion at the scene killed five demonstrators. A sixth civilian injured in the explosion later died at a hospital in Srinagar.

Indian forces also fired shotgun pellets and tear gas at the protesters, leaving at least 30 injured.

AII Executive Director Aakar Patel pointed out: "What transpired in the aftermath of the Kulgam encounter is unfortunate and could have been avoided had the authorities taken extra caution to ensure that civilians would have access to the area only after proper sanitisation of the encounter site was done."

"In case of any direct or indirect violence between security forces and armed groups, extra caution should be exercised to ensure that civilians in the area do not become collateral damage. Safety of the civilian population should be of paramount importance."

Patel said that Amnesty acknowledges that a case was registered and "urged the authorities to ensure all those responsible for the incident are brought to justice for their failure to protect the human rights of the population" of IHK.

Following the Oct 21 incident, Pakistan strongly condemned the violence in Kulgam.

Islamabad has repeatedly called for resolving the Kashmir dispute in accordance with the aspirations of the Kashmiri people.

Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal during a weekly press briefing on Thursday claimed that Indian forces had killed 20 unarmed Kashmiris, adding that Pakistan stands with the families of Kashmiris.

After years of peaceful protest, more and more Kashmiris are once again picking up arms as the Indian authorities have refused to consider their demand for the right to self-determination.

India has some 500,000 troops deployed in IHK.

A popular uprising has been growing since 2016 when a charismatic young Kashmir fighter was shot dead by Indian occupation forces. More than 100 peaceful Kashmiris died in subsequent weeks of protest.

This year at least 186 armed Kashmiris, 80 anti-Indian protesters and 75 Indian forces personnel have died in clashes across IHK.

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