SRINAGAR: Thousands of angry villagers protested Sunday after Indian army soldiers shot and killed a man accused of forcing his way into an army camp in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.
The villagers argued that 25-year-old Sajad Ahmed was detained and shot Saturday without provocation.
They shouted ‘We want freedom’ and ‘Indian army leave Kashmir’ and carried Ahmed’s body through the streets of Ganapora, 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Indian Kashmir’s main city, Srinagar.
An Indian army spokesman, Lt. Col. J.S. Brar, said the man was ‘an intruder moving under suspicious circumstances and tried to forcibly enter the army camp’ at nearby Watargam village. Brar said soldiers challenged the man but ‘he assaulted the sentry with an ax and rushed into the camp, where he was shot dead.’
The spokesman said a soldier was injured in the incident. Ahmed’s father, Ghulam Mohiuddin, said his son was stopped on the road just outside the camp and was killed in army custody. ‘It’s a cold-blooded murder,’ he said.
Local police are investigating the death and the army’s claims, said an officer on condition of anonymity in keeping with department policy.
Human rights groups and separatist leaders have long accused Indian security forces of using violence to intimidate the local population in Muslim-majority Kashmir, where most people favor independence from India or a merger with Pakistan.
Kashmir is divided between the two nuclear-armed neighbors, who both claim the region in its entirety and have fought two wars over it.
India has an estimated 700,000 soldiers in Kashmir to counter several militant groups that have been fighting Indian rule since 1989. More than 68,000 people, most of them civilians, have been killed in the uprising and subsequent Indian crackdown. -AP