Indian Police Fire Tear Gas At Kashmir Protesters
10 December 2004
Srinagar: Indian police fired teargas shells in Kashmir's main city on Friday to disperse hundreds of demonstrators protesting against alleged human rights violations in the disputed Himalayan region, witnesses said. More than 600 people shouting 'Stop human rights violations ... we want freedom' marched towards the U.N. office in Srinagar in one of a string of protests in Kashmir's summer capital to mark International Human Rights Day. Slogan-shouting veiled women carried photographs of a 10-year-old girl who was allegedly raped by an army major in November, sparking furious protests across the state. The officer has been suspended and is facing a military investigation. Muslim militants in Kashmir, which is claimed in entirety by both India and Pakistan, have been fighting New Delhi's rule since 1989. At least 45,000 people have been killed in the rebellion. Police said scores of protesters were detained during the day and two senior separatist leaders, Shabir Ahmad Shah and hardline Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who were scheduled to lead the demonstration, were put under house arrest. Kashmir has witnessed a series of protests in recent weeks over the killings of at least three civilians, allegedly by troops, and the alleged rape of the 10- year-old and her mother. Indian authorities deny allegations of systematic rights violations, saying they investigate all reports and punish anyone found guilty in isolated cases. The governor of Jammu and Kashmir, India's only Muslim-majority state, said in a statement that every one of the 1,300 complaints of human rights abuses received had been investigated. 'Of these, we found 33 to be genuine and others false,' said the governor, S.K. Sinha. 'We have taken action against the guilty personnel. Half of them have been dismissed from service and given prison sentences up to 12 years.' Violence involving Indian security forces and Muslim rebels continues unabated in Kashmir despite a cautious peace process between India and Pakistan, who have fought two wars over the disputed region. Four policemen were killed on Friday when Muslim rebels fired at a police patrol near Jammu, the state's winter capital. A spokesman of Kashmir's frontline rebel group, Hizbul Mujahideen, called newspaper offices in Srinagar and claimed responsibility for the attack. The violence comes after India and Pakistan failed to agree on starting a bus service between the capitals of divided Kashmir region after two days of talks which ended in New Delhi on Wednesday.