SRINAGAR: Indian troops suffered new losses on Monday in a battle with Kashmiri fighters that left nine dead in India-held Kashmir (IHK), officials said, days after a suicide bomb attack killed scores of soldiers.
The confrontation piled more pressure on the Indian government, which has blamed Pakistan for last Thursday’s suicide attack on a convoy that left at least 41 paramilitaries dead.
Several hours of shooting rocked the Pulwama district, south of the main city of Srinagar, after officials reported that four soldiers, one policeman and four Kashmiris were killed in the latest clash.
An army major was among those killed, officials said, adding that six soldiers including a colonel and a brigadier were injured.
In Jammu city, mobs attack and set fire to properties belonging to Muslims
Security force sources said that one of the dead Kashmiri fighters had been identified as Abdul Rashid Gazi, who went by the alias Kamran Bhai.
“The encounter is still on,” said Colonel Rakesh Kalia, a military spokesman in IHK.
Hundreds of soldiers raided villages and fired shots at a suspected hideout, unleashing the firefight in the village of Pinglan.
Some Kashmiri fighters were believed to have escaped, police said, and government forces cordoned off other villages as they gave chase.
Government forces have launched a massive hunt since an explosives-packed van struck the convoy transporting 2,500 security men close to Pinglan on Thursday.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday called for greater international action against “terrorism”.
“The cruel terrorist attack in Pulwana shows that time for talks is over,” Mr Modi told reporters after a meeting with Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri in New Delhi.
Thousands of demonstrators staged angry rallies in several Indian cities over the weekend, with attacks on Kashmiris reported in different towns.
Many small businesses closed on Monday following a call for a nationwide shutdown.
In the capital, a Kashmiri man was beaten by a mob that accused him of chanting anti-India slogans. He was later detained by police.
A curfew remained in force for a fourth day in Jammu city, where mobs attacked and set fire to properties belonging to Muslims.
Thousands of residents in the city have fled to Muslim-majority areas.
The government faces increased pressure because of an upcoming national election.
New Delhi has withdrawn trade privileges for Pakistan and ended police protection for four Kashmiri leaders.
Mohammad Yunis, a journalist in Pulwama, said troops were searching the village and civilians trapped in houses were being evacuated.
On Sunday, police said Indian forces had detained 23 men suspected of links to the man who carried out Thursday’s bombing.
The Thursday bomb attack has sparked outrage in India with calls for revenge circulating on social media, and rising animosity towards Kashmiri Muslims in other parts of the Hindu-majority country, to the alarm of rights groups.
“We are at a dangerous moment, and authorities must do everything they can to uphold the rule of law,” said Aakar Patel, head of Amnesty India. Ordinary Kashmiris across India who are only seeking to improve their lives should not be singled out for violence simply because of where they come from.
Published in Dawn, February 19th, 2019