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Indian paramilitaries shoot dead civilians amid spike in violence across Kashmir

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Indian paramilitary troopers stand guard at a market in Srinagar, on October 24, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

Indian paramilitaries have shot dead another civilian in Kashmir following a string of suspected militant attacks and targeted killings in the disputed Himalayan region.

Police said the man was hit in "crossfire" during "militant action" near a police paramilitary camp in the village of Zainapora and that the incident was being investigated.

The victim, a milk seller in the southern Kashmir Valley, had been fatally shot without provocation.

The killing brought the number of the fatalities to a dozen this month as attacks by security forces or militant increase in the Muslim-majority region, claiming more civilian lives.

Dozens of people, including several civilians, have reportedly been gunned down over the past few weeks during a fresh surge in violence and a government crackdown in the Indian-controlled Kashmir.

The latest incidence of violence comes as the authorities tightened security across the disputed Himalayan region for a visit by a top Indian minister. Amit Shah, India's home minister and effective deputy to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has been in the Muslim-majority region since Saturday.

His visit follows a series of targeted killings by militants, with minority Hindus and Sikhs as well as migrant workers from elsewhere in India being the main targets.

Sandbag bunkers have been erected across Kashmir's main city of Srinagar and snipers positioned on rooftops around the building where Shah is staying.

Police have in recent days impounded hundreds of motorbikes in the city and intensified checks on pedestrians including women and children.

New Delhi has about 500,000 troops and paramilitaries in Kashmir seeking to contain a rebel movement agitating for independence or the region's merger with Pakistan.

Motorbikes have been used for drive-by killings. India's chief of defense staff General Bipin Rawat said security monitoring was being intensified to thwart attacks by suspected militants. 

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since their independence in 1947. Rebels launched an insurgency in 1989 and the fighting has left tens of thousands dead, mainly civilians.

The uptick in violence comes amid a sweeping crackdown by Indian government forces across the Kashmir Valley following a string of targeted killings in the main city of Srinagar last week. Police have detained more than 700 people for questioning in the Muslim-majority region over the past few days.

According to police, those detained in the crackdown include members of religious groups, anti-India activists, and “overground workers,” a term Indian authorities use for pro-independence sympathizers.

Local police have blamed the targeted killings on armed groups fighting against Indian rule in the region for decades.

India has tightened restrictions on movement in Kashmir to contain protests after the death of a top independence leader last month.

The government of Indian Premier Modi revoked the self-autonomy of Indian-controlled Kashmir in 2019, in a move described by Pakistan as illegal. Since then, India has imposed more internet shutdowns and other restrictions in the disputed Muslim-majority region.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since their partition in 1947, with both countries claiming the region in full. 

India regularly accuses Pakistan of arming and training militants and allowing them to launch attacks across the restive frontier. Pakistan strongly rejects the accusation.

India and Pakistan have fought four wars since their partition in 1947, three of them over Kashmir.


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