Strike Over Boys' Killing Shuts Down Kashmir
27 July 2005
Srinagar: Shops, schools and businesses across turbulent Indian Kashmir were closed on Wednesday in protest at the killing of three teenagers by soldiers, police and witnesses said. In the region's main city of Srinagar, the streets were mostly deserted due to the strike. Police and military jeeps and trucks patrolled the city. 'I am sitting at home to show my anger at the killing of the children,' said Manzoor Ahmed, who closed his shop. Saturday night's shooting of the three boys, aged between 13 and 15, has fuelled anger and led to widespread protests in Kashmir. A 15-year-old boy was also wounded. Wednesday's strike was called by the hardline faction of Kashmir's separatist alliance, the All Parties Hurriyat (Freedom) Conference, which slammed what it called the government's shoot-to-kill policy. 'Delhi has given directions to its troops to kill Kashmiris,' Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the chief of a hardline faction of Hurriyat, said in a statement. The army said it regretted the deaths of the teenagers and said soldiers had mistaken them for Muslim militants fighting Indian rule in Kashmir, because they had violated a night- time curfew in place in parts of the region. 'It is something which will take us sometime to live down,' Lieutenant-General S.S. Dhillon, head of the Indian army in the Kashmir valley, told a news conference in Srinagar. 'I am quite definite there was no mala fide intention, there was no scheme, there was no plan and there was no effort to kill these three innocent boys,' he said on Tuesday. The army said it was investigating the shootings in Kashmir, which has been the cause of two of the three India-Pakistan wars. Human rights groups have long accused the army - and the militants - of widespread abuses against Kashmiri civilians, but authorities deny any systematic abuse and say they investigate all incidents and punish those found guilty. Violence involving Muslim militants and tens of thousands of Indian troops continues in Kashmir despite a slow-moving peace process between India and Pakistan launched 20 months ago. More than 45,000 people have been killed, including thousands of civilians, in the rebellion since 1989.