Tensions Rise Between Rebel Groups and Authorities in Kashmir Amid Death of a Civilian
Protesters fill the streets in Srinagar, Kashmir following the death of Saleem Malik, a 26-year old civilian. Malik was shot by Indian soldiers on Thursday, September 27. A senior police official has stated that Malik was killed in a “cross-fire” whilst the family claims the death was a “cold-blooded” murder.
Civilians chanted “go India, go back” and slogans for freedom. Others resorted to throwing rocks at the paramilitary troops and police force in protest of the killing. In order to mollify the unrest, troops used tear gas and fired shotgun pellets at the civilians. Mobile internet services were shut down, and a curfew was placed on certain areas of Kashmir.
Anti-India sentiment has been intensifying since the death of Burhan Wani in 2016. Wani was a commander for Hizbul Mujahideen, a rebel group in Kashmir. His death sparked protest for five months that year, during which more than 100 protesters were killed by Indian authorities.
Kashmir has become one of the most militarized conflict areas since India stationed an estimated 700,000 troops in the region. The troops are protected by the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), providing immunity to the army in Kashmir from “prosecution of torture, rape or extrajudicial killings.”
Muslim rebel separatist groups such as Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba, have been targeting police officers, claiming they have been coordinating with Indian military forces. So far this year, 37 policemen have been killed by rebel groups, and 66 militants have been killed by authorities.
The Kashmir police force is facing consequences of the rebel insurgency rather than the Indian army forces stationed locally. Over 1,500 policemen have been killed since the rebellion began in 1989. Despite the dangers faced in the police force, civilians continue to join the police force as it is one of the few jobs that provide a steady income in a region riddled with uncertainty and a weak economy.
“The role of police is to primarily deal with law and order,” said Sheikh Abdul Rasheed, an independent legislator in the Jammu Kashmir Assembly. “Unfortunately, they are being pushed to fight militancy. The government is making a Kashmiri fight another Kashmiri.”