Violent clashes erupted between student demonstrators and Indian police on Thursday in Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir. In South Kashmir’s Shopian district, students were protesting against the recent killings of 20 people, including separatist fighters and civilians by government troops. Tension has persisted since the start of April as the Kashmiris have been leading anti-India protests against the killings.
On Sunday, gun battles between separatist fighters and the Indian army soldiers resulted in the deaths of at least 12 fighters and four civilians. Civilians caught in between reported to have suffered pellet wounds and bullet injuries. Al Jazeera was told by locals that many civilians marched towards the gun battles to help the rebels escape and this started the clashes. A villager, Manzoor Ahmad said, “The forces fired live ammunition at the civilians. Several young people received pellet injuries in their eyes; two people received bullets in front of my eyes, many civilian homes have also been damaged, leaving them on roads. How long this bloodshed will continue. We are tired.”
In recent years it has become a trend in Kashmir for civilians to join in the encounter between the fighters and the authorities to help the fighters escape or express their solidarity. They also go on to attend in large numbers the funerals of these militants, which often leads to clashes occurring. Last year, after the killing of the militant commander, Burhan Wani, tens of thousands took to the street, including mostly young boys. These boys knowing that the police carry guns could lose their lives or their eyesight seemed to appear ready to die as they threw stones at the authorities. In other words, the Kashmiris are very frustrated, tired and angry as their country has endured two centuries of oppression, 30 years of armed conflict, and brutal wars.
Unrest in the Indian-administered Kashmir has always been present as the Kashmiris do not want to be governed by India, instead want to be part of Pakistan or have independence. Pakistan a Muslim and India a Hindu majority chose to part ways after independence in 1947 and at the same time Kashmir had to choose who to belong to. The Hindu ruler of Kashmir chose India, which angered the population of Kashmir, who are Muslim majority. The Kashmiris carried out protests and had to endure massacres carried out by the Hindu and Sikh citizens supported by Indian troops. All these years of conflict has created various rebel groups, who have in recent years declined in numbers but have gained massive support by the civilians of Kashmir as evident by these current protests.
India in recent times has been successful in bringing the numbers of militants down but it can’t ignore the continuous resistance by the civilians especially the youth. The Kashmiris have always seen their country being under an oppressive regime who bring down their voice of self-determination and independence. This includes India’s continues effort to not hold a referendum, which the Kashmiris have been demanding for years as it is a hope towards peace.