Indian police detain hundreds amid violence in Kashmir
Government forces have detained at least 500 people in a sweeping crackdown in India -controlled Kashmir local officials said on Sunday, following a string of suspected militant attacks and targeted killings in the disputed region.
Assailants fatally shot three Hindus and a Sikh in the region’s main city of Srinagar this week in a sudden rise in violence against civilians that both pro- and anti-India Kashmiri politicians widely condemned.
Local police blamed the spate of killings on militants who have been fighting against Indian rule in the region for decades.
Officials said that, in the last three days, they had arrested more than 500 people across the Kashmir Valley for questioning, with the majority of detainees from Srinagar.
Police said that militants belonging to The Resistance Front, or TRF, rebel group have shot and killed seven people since last week, taking the death toll from such attacks this year to 28. While 21 of those were Muslims, seven of them belonged to Hindu and Sikh minority communities.
Officials say TRF is the local front for the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group. The cell was formed after India stripped the region of its semi-autonomous status in 2019, scrapped its statehood, and undertook a massive security and communications lockdown for months.
Kashmir has remained on edge ever since as authorities also put in place a slew of new laws, which critics and many Kashmiris fear could change the region’s demographics.
The killings over the last week appeared to have triggered widespread fear among minority communities, with many Hindu families opting to leave the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley.
The victims included a prominent Kashmiri Hindu chemist, two schoolteachers of the Hindu and Sikh faiths, and a Hindu street food vendor from India’s eastern state of Bihar.
According to police, those detained in the ensuing crackdown include members of religious groups, anti-India activists and “overground workers”, a term Indian authorities use for militant sympathisers and collaborationists.
The Himalayan territory of Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, with both nuclear-armed arch-rival powers claiming it in its entirety.
Rebels in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir have been fighting New Delhi’s rule since 1989.
Most Muslim Kashmiris support the rebel goal of uniting the territory, either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.
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