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Normal life remains crippled in violence-hit Kashmir

At least 65 people have died after thousands took to streets protesting death of separatist leader

Normal life remains crippled in violence-hit Kashmir

Police check an ambulance in Srinagar Aug. 17, where a curfew has been imposed for the past 41 days after demands by some local Muslims for independence from India turned violent. (Photo by Umar Asif.)

Umar Shah, Srinagar
India

August 18, 2016

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Catholics in India are praying for an end to the ongoing violence in Jammu and Kashmir state, saying the lack of peace is adversely affecting the poor.

"We are holding special prayers in which we pray for lasting peace in the region. There has to be a concrete effort by the authorities to take people in confidence so that the present cycle of violence could somehow end," Father Roy Mathew of Jammu-Srinagar Diocese, which covers the entire state, told ucanews.com.

The present cycle of violence should end as it has affected poorer sections of society, he said adding that people who earn daily wages are the most affected. They are denied their livelihood because of curfew, he said noting the unrest continue to claim lives on a daily basis.

Normal life has remained paralyzed in India’s Jammu and Kashmir state for more than a month after authorities imposed a curfew amid mounting tension and violence after police shot and killed a secessionist leader Burhan Wani last month. 

Protests began to spread across the state bordering Pakistan, spearheaded by groups demanding self-determination for India’s only Muslim-majority region. Wani, who allegedly lead an armed struggle for freedom, was shot dead on July 8.

At least 65 people were killed and 5,000 injured including members of the security forces after violence flared after thousands of people took to streets to protest the police shooting. Most people allegedly died in police shootings.

Sensing more protests on streets, the government tightened restrictions across the state and also imposed nightlong curfews.

All educational institutions including schools, colleges have remained closed since July 8. All public transport remains off the road. All offices, both private and government, are also shut because of militants "extending" the curfew through threats of violence.

Internet and mobile phone services have been suspended except from a government run-service, which functions only in some pockets of the Kashmir Valley.

 

Police guard a street in Srinagar, where a curfew has been imposed since July 8 after a demand for freedom from India turned violent. (Photo by Umar Asif.)

Separatist leaders have been asking people to come out of their homes and march towards the UN office-located in the state capital Srinagar demanding freedom from India and intervention in stopping police action.

Both India and the separatists have toughened their positions.

Militants outfit Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, which spearheaded the armed struggle, has issued a new video asking for the public to continue protests.

Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Kashmir’s chief religious cleric and head of Hurriyat Conference — a grouping of separatist organizations in Kashmir — told ucanews.com the government’s "sadistic approach" toward the issue is forcing people to protest in the streets.

Farooq, who continues, to remain under house arrest, says India government hasn’t acknowledged the peoples’ aspirations. "We [separatists] aren’t going to accept the status quo. We want a lasting peace that will only come with a lasting solution to the problem. We equally want peace and prosperity for the whole region," Farooq said.

Separatists allege that India’s ruling pro-Hindu government is employing "strong arm tactics" to crush a "genuine demand" for self-determination. India, reiterating the region is an integral part of the country, accuses its neighbor Pakistan of supporting Muslims groups causing unrest in the region.

The separatist movement that began some 30 years ago has claimed an estimated 100,000 lives, including civilians, militants and army personnel. The armed struggle demands either freedom from Indian rule or a merger with Pakistan.

Both India and Pakistan lay claim to Kashmir since the partition of the subcontinent in 1947. The nuclear-powered south Asian rivals have also fought at least least three major wars over this disputed region.

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