SRINAGAR: Stone-throwing protesters in India-held Kashmir killed a driver of what they thought was a military truck, police said on Monday, as a crippling security lockdown entered its fourth week.
The turning of the former Himalayan kingdom of seven million people into a fortress of barricades and barbed wire has not prevented protests and clashes with security forces taking place however.
In the latest demonstration on Sunday in Anantnag district protesters hurled stones at a truck that they believed to be a military vehicle. The 42-year-old driver was struck on the head and died, police said.
The Press Trust of India news agency said two men had been arrested over the incident.
India says no civilian has died from police action since Aug 5. But residents have said three people have been killed.
Meanwhile, some policemen — sitting outside a shopfront in Srinagar without weapons, riot gear or even clean uniforms — are weighing their allegiances. Thirty Kashmiri police officers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity fearing retribution from their superiors, said they had been sidelined and in some cases disarmed by New Delhi-based authorities since the government downgraded J&K from a state into two federally administered territories.
Discord among police
The police force was shocked by the sudden move, leading officers to feel spiritless, caught between the federal security forces they now report to and the friends and neighbors who question their loyalties like never before.
“At the end of the day, we neither belong to our own nor are we trusted by higher authorities,” said one officer.
Officers described held Kashmir’s sudden re-organisation as a betrayal by the federal authorities they had been serving at the risk of social alienation in their communities.
Many of the policemen said their department-issued firearms were taken away from them days before government’s order was presented in parliament because authorities feared they could rebel.
At least three fights have broken out between the police and soldiers since leading to injuries on both sides, two police officers said.
In contrast to the Indian paramilitary soldiers manning a maze of checkpoints armed with assault rifles, shotguns, tear gas canisters and two-way radios, Kashmir police are only carrying batons.
“It has been a leisurely job these days,” said one officer. “We’ve become like clerks and helpers in the field for soldiers. Why should we carry weapons? After all, we too are part of this besieged society,” he said.
Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2019