MUZAFFARABAD: Thousands of protesters marched in Azad Kashmir on Friday to denounce recent deadly clashes with Indian security forces, with some calling for war over the disputed frontier.
About 4,000 people gathered in Muzaffarabad, some carrying photos of slain rebel leader Burhan Wani, whose killing last week sparked unrest that killed 32 people — the deadliest clashes in held Kashmir since 2010 when massive demonstrations were held against Indian rule.
Students, lawyers, traders, political activists and members of militant groups gathered at Friday’s protest, where the local head of hardline militant group, Jamat-ud-Dawa, issued a call to arms.
Supporters of banned organisation Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) shout slogans alongside burning Indian flags during a protest to denounce recent violence by Indian security forces in Indian-held Kashmir in Quetta on July 15, 2016. PHOTO: AFP
“India understands the language of bullet and not voice of people. We have no other option, just to start an armed struggle,” Maulana Abdul Aziz Alvi told the crowd.
“We call on the military and political leaderships that Kashmiri mujahideen (freedom fighters) should be allowed to go and fight against the Indian troops and for the freedom movement.”
Kashmir has been divided between rivals India and Pakistan since their independence from Britain in 1947, but both claim the picturesque Himalayan territory in its entirety.
Protesters shout slogans during a protest to denounce recent violence by Indian security forces in Indian-held Kashmir in Karachi on July 15, 2016. PHOTO: AFP
The two countries agreed a border ceasefire agreed in 2003 that has largely held, though there are fears the unrest could lead to a revival of cross-border militancy.
“We came here today to show solidarity with the oppressed Kashmiris in Indian-held Kashmir. We want to tell the world about the brutalities against the unarmed civilians in Kashmir,” Muhammad Tahir, a 26-year-old student, told AFP.
Indian paramilitary troopers stand guard as a Kashmiri family walks past during a curfew, in downtown Srinagar on July 15, 2016. PHOTO: AFP
Wani, a 22-year-old poster boy for the region’s biggest rebel group Hizbul Mujahideen, was killed in a gun battle with government forces.
Islamabad summoned New Delhi’s envoy on Monday and conveyed Pakistan’s “serious concern” over the recent violence.
Indian Police said most of those who died were protesters killed by gunshot wounds as troops fired live ammunition and tear gas to try to enforce a curfew imposed across the Kashmir Valley.
Hizbul Mujahideen is one of several homegrown militant groups that have for decades been fighting around half a million Indian troops deployed in the region, calling for independence or a merger with Pakistan.