SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Violent protests erupted Friday in a town in Indian-controlled Kashmir after two civilians were killed and another wounded in what the Indian army called a “firing incident by unidentified terrorists.” But locals in southern Rajouri district said the men were shot by soldiers at the entrance of a military base.
Two men died on the spot while the third was critically injured and later hospitalized.
The three men worked as laborers at the military base in Rajouri, a town close to the highly militarized Line of Control that divides the disputed Himalayan region between India and Pakistan. Both nuclear-armed rivals claim Kashmir in its entirety.
Residents rejected the Indian army’s statement that the men died in a “firing incident by unidentified terrorists.”
Garu Sanehi, a local community leader and member of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, said there appeared to be no militant attack on the army base.
“If militants attacked the camp, why army did not later respond with a cordon and search operation as is generally the case?” he said. “The soldiers did not come out of the camp.”
Shortly after the incident, hundreds of residents protested the killings and demanded justice. They gathered outside the military camp and hurled stones at it.
No one was reported injured in the clashes.
Authorities have ordered a probe into the incident.
A slew of emergency laws since the eruption of armed rebellion against Indian rule three decades back in Indian-controlled Kashmir grant Indian troops sweeping powers to search homes and make arrests without warrants and to shoot suspects on sight without fear of prosecution.
The government has said the allegations of rights violations are mostly separatist propaganda meant to demonize troops.
Rights groups in the past have dismissed government probes as a public relations tool aimed at pacifying public anger.
India insists the Kashmir militancy is Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. Pakistan denies the charge, and most Kashmiris consider it a legitimate freedom struggle. Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces have been killed in the conflict.
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