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India denounced for using civilians as human shields in Kashmir

Photo shows Mohammad Altaf Bhat who was killed by Indian forces in Srinagar, the main city in the Indian-administered Kashmir, on November 15, 2021.

India's government has come under attack from politicians and activists for using civilians as "human shields” in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

Inspector General of Police (IGP) Kashmir, Vijay Kumar on Tuesday said that four persons were killed in a gunfight in Hyderpora area of Srinagar, the summer capital of the Indian-administered Kashmir, on Monday night.

He referred to them as "a foreign militant, his local associate, an over-ground worker (OGW) and a building owner."

Kumar said the building owner was killed in the “cross-fire” while the fourth person was an OGW who had provided his rented space to the foreign militant for using the same as “militant hideout.”

The families of the two, a suspected OGW and a building owner, denied that they had any links to militants, and accused Indian forces of using them as "human shields" during the military operation.

Mehbooba Mufti, president of the Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) hit out at the Indian government on Tuesday, and said, “Using innocent civilians as human shields, getting them killed in cross firing & then conveniently labeling them as OGWs is part of GOIs [the government of India’s] rulebook now”, using the abbreviation for “over-ground worker”, a term that refers to those helping militants.

“Imperative that a credible judicial enquiry is done to bring out the truth & put an end to this rampant culture of impunity,” Mufti said on Twitter.

Mufti also shared an emotional footage showing the daughter of one of those killed in the Monday incident – Mohammad Altaf Bhat – crying and saying, “How do I explain it to my 3-year-old brother? How do I lift [my] mother’s spirit who hasn’t stopped crying? Why was my father used as a human shield 3 times & killed?"

Bhat’s family members staged a protest on Monday night, demanding the handover of his corpse which they have been denied as he was labeled a “militant associate”.

“My uncle has been murdered. He was used as a human shield in a staged encounter. He runs a hardware shop and owns the complex where the forces had come for checking,” The Kashmir Walla quoted niece Saima Bhat as saying. “There was no gunfight in that complex. He was taken three times as human shield for checking and when they couldn’t find anything, he was killed there.”

People also took to social media to voice their anger and denounce the Indian crackdown on people in the disputed region of Kashmir.

“They kill and label us anything according to their own convenience. A civilian was used as human shield, killed and labeled as militant sympathizer to deny body to the family and their right to mourn the loss,” an activist said in a tweet on Tuesday.

Kashmir has been split between India and Pakistan since their partition in 1947. Both countries claim all of Kashmir and have fought three wars over the territory.

The government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi revoked the special status of Indian-controlled Kashmir in 2019, in a move described by Pakistan as "illegal". Since then, India imposed a similar internet shutdown and other restrictions in the disputed Muslim-majority region.

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