Key Indian minister reviews security on Kashmir visit – AFP
By Izhar Wani (AFP)
SRINAGAR, India — India’s home minister reviewed the security situation in Kashmir Sunday in the face of months of deadly protests against Indian rule that have left over 100 people dead.
P. Chidambaram held a series of meetings with Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and top security and intelligence officials, a spokesman said.
It was Chidambaram’s first visit to the state since June 11, when a 17-year-old student was killed by a police tear-gas shell, triggering months of clashes.
Since then, security forces have been accused of killing a total of 111 people, mostly teenagers and students during violent anti-India demonstrations.
The two day-tour that began Saturday took Chidambaram to the northeastern district of Ladakh that was hit by flash floods in August, leaving over 200 people dead.
On Sunday, he visited northern Baramulla district to take stock of the situation in the areas most affected by the protests.
Hours after he left Baramulla, Indian troops backed by police shot dead a suspected militant in the same district during a fierce gunbattle, a police spokesman said, adding the “fighting was still going on.”
Chidambaram later met with Abdullah, Kashmir’s army and police chiefs and other officials in Indian Kashmir’s summer capital of Srinagar, the spokesman said.
Police said anti-India protesters and police clashed at three places in northern Bandipora district and Srinagar prompting police to use “mild force to ward off the protesters.”
“There were no casualties despite protesters hurling stones at security forces,” the police spokesman said.
The unrest has left the government grappling for solutions to the outpouring of anger in Kashmir, where a 20-year insurgency has declined in intensity but popular desire for an independent Kashmir remains strong.
About two-thirds of residents want independence for their region, according to a survey in September.
Kashmir, a scenic Himalayan territory with a Muslim majority but large Hindu minority, is divided between India and Pakistan and claimed by both. It has triggered two of the three fully-fledged wars between the nuclear powers.
Separatist militants have been battling Delhi’s rule in the Indian part of the territory since 1989. At least 47,000 people, more than a third of them civilians, have died in the conflict, according to official figures.