By Ryan Jewell | Contributor
Tensions in the disputed region of Kashmir are at risk of overspilling following the killing of four men by Indian authorities earlier two weeks ago. Gunshots were reported in Srinagar, the main city of the region, in the early hours of Monday morning with local police stating that the four men were suspected militants and were killed as part of a counter-insurgency operation at a shopping complex within the city.
Local authorities identified Mohammad Altaf Bhat, Mudasir Gul, Aamir Margay and another man who they claimed to be from Pakistan, as the four killed in the operation. Witnesses near the scene described how the police had collected the four men and forced them to search the building before gunshots were heard.
Controversy immediately followed the operation, with the family members of three of the men; Bhat, Gul, and Magray taking to social media to express their outrage at local authorities not only for the deaths of their family members but also the accusations lauded against them post-mortem. These families have declared their deceased family members innocent and accused the police of murdering unarmed civilians in a “staged gunfight”.
The deaths of the four men have added further fuel to an already raging fire in Kashmir, a region where state authorities have been accused of numerous human right violations against locals – including examples of killings similar to this – and triggered a wave of protests from the deceased family members, who staged a sit-in protest in the main media hub of Srinagar before being removed by police, and by local protestors and separatist groups who orchestrated a shutdown strike across the region.
The Kashmir region is situated on the border between India and Pakistan and is claimed by both nations. With two wars being fought in 1947 and 1965, as well as an insurgency against the Indian state since 1989, it is an area rocked with instability and ultimately violence with over 50,000 people losing their lives to fighting in the region over the past few decades.
In response to the outcry surrounding the killings, the Indian government has ordered an immediate investigation into the operation and the bodies of both Gul and Bhat have been returned back to their respected families for burial, but the family of Magray are still awaiting the return of his body with the police maintaining that he was a militant.
Promises of an investigation into the deaths has done little to quell the anger in the region as patience with the authorities has been waning thin with the threat of breaking over decades of mistrust and poor treatment.