Young Muslims protest in India's Muslim-dominated Jammu and Kashmir state on March 4 against the killings in Syria. They hold Bashar al-Assad's government responsible for the violence. (Photo by Umar Asif/ucanews.com)
Hundreds of Muslims in India's Kashmir region have protested against Syria's government, holding it responsible for the death of more than 600 civilians after intensified fighting between government forces and rebels.
Protest leaders shouted slogans on March 4 against Bashar al-Assad's government as reports said more than 674 civilians were killed in nearly two weeks by air attacks on the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta.
"We need to raise our voices against this open barbarism. The killings of innocent children cannot be tolerated for so long. It is a high time to wake up from deep slumber and condemn the barbarous acts of the Assad regime," activist Irshad Ahmad wrote on his Facebook page.
The indiscriminate aerial bombardment has drawn international condemnation, but a 30-day ceasefire unanimously voted for by the members of the United Nations Security Council on Feb. 24 has largely failed to hold.
What began in March 2011 as a series of mass demonstrations against Assad's government evolved into a standoff, with the United States, Russia, Iran and Turkey supporting different local forces vying for power.
Besides street protests, students hailing from colleges in Jammu and Kashmir state assembled in Srinagar's central market to hold a candlelight protest against the killings in Syria. Protesters lit candles while holding banners that denounced the violence.
Najmu Saaqib, a student who participated in the protest, told ucanews.com that such protests would intensify in Kashmir if world bodies continue to remain unmoved over the Syria carnage.
"The United Nations has been silent over [violence in] Kashmir for decades. And now it is silent over the killings in Syria. Our peaceful protest is a message to world bodies to act against the killers of humanity," Saaqib said.
Hilal Ahmad, chairman of the Global Islamic Research Forum in Kashmir, told ucanews.com that international rights organizations and the UN must intervene to stop the bloodshed in Syria.
Indian forces are trying to suppress an armed Islamic movement to free the Kashmir region from Indian rule.
As Iran, wherein Shia Muslims are a majority, is backing the Assad regime in Syria, the Kashmir government is worried there could be clashes between Shia and Sunni people in Kashmir, a Sunni-majority area.
The Indian state has 12.5 million people, some 69 percent of them Muslims and close to 29 percent Hindus. The rest are Buddhists, Christians and Sikhs. But the Kashmir region is almost entirely Muslim as Hindus are concentrated in the Jammu area.
The insurgency in Kashmir has claimed an average of 1,500 lives a year, including those of militants, armed personnel and civilians, since it began three decades ago, according to federal government data. Kashmiri activists accuse the army of using excessive force in suppressing Muslims' desire for freedom.