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NEW DELHI: India’s Supreme Court on Friday ordered bolstered protection for Kashmiris who have faced a violent backlash from a suicide bombing in India-held Kashmir that killed over 40 paramilitary personnel.

More than 700 Kashmiri students, workers and traders have returned to the disputed Himalayan region from India to escape reprisals for the attack.

The top court told state governments and police chiefs to ensure there were no “attacks, threats or social boycott” over the Feb 14 bombing, the worst in the disputed territory in three decades.

Video footage of Kashmiris being taunted or beaten has been widely shared on social media, while rightwing Hindu groups and some TV news channel pundits have encouraged reprisals.

Some Kashmiris have been suspended by Indian universities for their social media comments on the issue. Others have been arrested on sedition charges.

“Immediately after the attack, mobs and vigilante groups engaged in vitriolic hate speech and began attacking, and threatening Muslims and Kashmiris throughout the country,” said two activists who sought the Supreme Court action.

Mohammad Yasin Khan, president of Kashmir Traders and Manufac­turers Federation, said that threats of violence were still being made.

Khan said 300 students from Uttarakhand state alone had returned to Kashmir.

Kashmir business groups called for a protest shutdown on Friday of shops and stores in the disputed territory against the “continuing threats and intimidation” of Kashmiri people in Indian cities.

The suicide attack was reportedly claimed by the Jaish-e-Mohammad group.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who faces a looming election, has vowed the fighters “will pay a heavy price”.

Another fighter was killed during an army raid on Friday north of Srinagar, police said.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has vowed his country will retaliate if attacked.

India has sought to isolate Pakistan internationally and imposed trade restrictions against its neighbour.

On Thursday, India’s water resources and transport minister Nitin Gadkari reaffirmed an existing plan to restrict the flow of water to Pakistan from three rivers.

The sharing of water from the Indus River and its tributaries is regulated by a 1960 treaty.

Modi has made a similar threat before.

Published in Dawn, February 23rd, 2019