Viral video stokes tensions in Kashmir

Students hurling stones at police in Srinagar yesterday to protest against students being injured in clashes with security forces.
Students hurling stones at police in Srinagar yesterday to protest against students being injured in clashes with security forces.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Indian govt reels as footage of man strapped to army jeep as human shield deepens unrest

The Indian authorities are facing fresh protests and battling a growing backlash in Kashmir state, with outrage further stoked by a video of soldiers strapping a man to the front of their jeep as a human shield to thwart stone throwing, the most popular protest method in Kashmir.

Mr Farooq Ahmad Dar, 26, was allegedly picked up by army soldiers on April 9 and strapped to the bonnet of a jeep and driven through half a dozen villages from 10am to 5.30pm in Budgam district. In the video, a voice says: "This is the fate of the stone-pelter."

Mr Farooq, an embroiderer, told Indian media over the weekend: "They first thrashed me and then tied me to the bonnet of the jeep... I thought I would be killed. God knows how many kilometres they travelled with me tied in the front. I am not a stone-pelter."

He said soldiers picked him up near the home of a relative after he voted in a local election that day.

The 11-second video has gone viral over the past week, with the local police on Sunday filing a case of wrongful confinement and criminal intimidation against the soldiers. The army said it was verifying the video and has promised action if the soldiers were found guilty.

Yet Kashmir continues to boil over on other issues as well.

Hundreds of college students yesterday took to the streets to protestagainst 57 students being injured in clashes with security forces on Saturday in a college in Pulwama in South Kashmir. Security forces raided the college to try to arrest students involved in anti-India protests in the area.

India has been battling Pakistan- backed militancy in Kashmir state for decades. The past year has seen a spike in violence following the death of Kashmiri militant Burhan Wani, who was killed in an encounter with security forces last July. The killing triggered a round of violent protests in which more than 100 people were killed and scores blinded as security forces used pellet guns on stone-throwing protesters.

Since then, anger has been growing among the youth in Kashmir, with little end to the recent cycle of violence in which the security forces are trying to quell local protests on the one hand and battle Pakistani militants on the other.

"It is worse than what we have seen in recent times in terms of a deterioration in law and order. Now the protests have become very violent and security forces are also responding in an aggressive manner," said Ms Toufiq Rashid, a senior journalist based in Kashmir.

Eight people were killed in clashes with security forces following the April 9 by-election in Srinagar, where the voter turnout was just 7.14 per cent, the worst in years.

In a column titled "Sinking Valley" in The Indian Express paper last Saturday, analyst Pratap Bhanu Mehta, president of New Delhi-based think-tank Centre for Policy Research, wrote: "Whatever our counter-insurgency, or countermilitancy policy is, it is backfiring profoundly: Kashmir is more in the grip of militancy and radicalisation than at any point in the last 15 years."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 18, 2017, with the headline 'Viral video stokes tensions in Kashmir'. Print Edition | Subscribe