DELHI: Seven people died and dozens were wounded on Saturday when Indian security forces opened fire on civilians protesting at the death of three militants in a gun battle in Kashmir.
The fighting erupted after troops laid siege to a house in southern Pulwama where the militants were hiding. Three armed militants ran from the house into a nearby orchard, where they and one soldier were killed in a gunfight.
Amid the shooting, hundreds of villagers marched toward the orchard, shouting slogans in support of the militants and throwing stones at the troops. Six protesters were shot dead and a seventh died later in hospital from gunshot wounds.
Widespread protests broke out in Srinagar and other parts of Kashmir over the killings. Security has been tightened and troops rushed to potential hotspots.
“People in the area are very angry,” one Pulwama resident told Arab News. “These kind of civilian casualties are the spur for youngsters in the area to pick up guns. If the government thinks that by killing people they can scare them, they are living in a fool’s paradise. More and more youth are picking up guns in anger.”
BJP Kashmir spokesman Altaf Thakur blamed separatists for “misleading the youth of Kashmir.”
“Any death is a tragedy,” he told Arab News, “but I would like to put responsibility on those separatist groups who incite young people to pick up guns or become stone throwers in the name of independence. They don’t know they will lose their lives as a result.
“Most people in Kashmir want to live peacefully with India. Only a small section wants to create disturbances. Such people come in the way of peace.”