Widespread protests and clashes broke out in Kashmir on Sunday after a top rebel leader was killed by India’s security forces.
Sabzar Ahmad Bhat, a senior leader of the Hizbul Mujahideen group, was shot and killed on Saturday in a standoff with government troops in his hometown of Tral. Another young militant was also killed in the gunfight.
Thousands of protesters started stoning security forces, and violence soon broke out as demonstrators flocked to the area. The clash has left one civilian dead and dozens of others wounded.
Hizbul Mujahideen has been active in the area since 1989 and is considered the largest indigenous militant group in Kashmir. Bhat was a childhood friend of commander Burhan Wani, whose death in July 2016 resulted in weeks of strikes and protests, claiming 78 lives. Jammu and Kashmir Police Chief Shesh Paul Vaid said that police have been looking for Bhat for more than a year. Both of them were gunned down and the operation is still going on,” he told AFP.
Sunday marked the first day of Ramadan and thousands of people defied a strict Indian government-imposed curfew to attend Bhat’s funeral.
“It’s very disturbing. We don’t know what is going to happen in the next moment and how much the situation would escalate,” Parvez Ahmad, a Srinagar resident, told Al Jazeera.
Civilian life in Kashmir is continually disrupted by the ongoing violence, and a host of ongoing human rights abuses continue to be reported, ranging from mass killings, forced disappearances, torture, rape and sexual abuse. The Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society organisation states that most of these abuses are committed by Indian armed forces, and not one case brought before the court has resulted in prosecution.
For youth, violence and resistance have become a way of life.
The region has been divided between India and Pakistan since the end of British rule in 1947, and it is estimated that more than 70,000 people have died since the outbreak of violence in 1989.
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