Kashmir villagers accuse Indian army of harassment

By Zahid Rafiq, Monday, April 07, 2014

SRINAGAR, INDIAN HELD KASHMIR - Indian soldiers have been accused of trying to frighten residents of a Kashmir village from fighting a legal and civil case against the alleged mass rape of 50 women in 1991.

In Kunan village in Indian-held Kashmir, the military on Monday morning reportedly carried out an explosion of a ‘left-over’ land mine and flooded the area with troops, claiming to have information about the presence of arms and ammunitions in the area.

“We didn’t know what was happening at first but then the soldiers told the village elders that they had accidently found an old land-mine that they needed to be blown up,” Abdul Samad Dar, a village elder, told Anadolu Agency. “The army also told us that they had information that guns and ammunition were present in our village and they would need to carry search operations.”

Dar and other villagers believe that the whole incident is an attempt by the Indian Army to frighten them so that they would stop making noise about the 1991 Kunan-Poshpora incident in which more than 50 women were allegedly gang raped by Indian troops during an overnight search operation. The villagers are still fighting a legal case on behalf of the women.

“We completely understand this tactic; the army has done it before and they are doing it again. They want us to be silent and forget about what they did with our women,” Dar says. “But they cannot silence us with explosions and threats.”

The villagers have approached the local police to register a case against the army for intimidation and harassment. The police refused to divulge any details whether the case had been filed but confirmed that the explosion had been carried out by personnel of the Rashtriya Rifles and 160 Territorial Army, of the Hiri camp.

Despite repeated attempts to contact the Indian military, the army was unavailable for comment.

Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (CCS), a human rights group active in the state, told AA that army personnel from the same camp had been shooting a video at the same location on April 5, which appeared to be reconnaissance. “For three days, prior to April 5, there was unusual movement of the same army personnel at this location,” the CCS said.

Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full. The two countries have fought three full-fledged wars since they were partitioned in 1947, two of which were fought over Kashmir.

Since 1989, Kashmiri groups in the Indian-held zone have been fighting against Indian rule for independence or for unification with neighboring Pakistan. India reportedly maintains about 600,000 armed personnel in the valley.

More than 70,000 people have reportedly been killed in the conflict so far.

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