Seven killed in new protest over Kashmir massacre

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The Independent Online

Seven Kashmiris were killed and 50 injured in clashesbetween demonstrators yesterday, the latest victims of the storm that has blown up over the massacre of 35 Sikhs inKashmir two weeks ago.

Seven Kashmiris were killed and 50 injured in clashesbetween demonstrators yesterday, the latest victims of the storm that has blown up over the massacre of 35 Sikhs inKashmir two weeks ago.

The dead men were among a crowd protesting over the abduction of five people from the town of Anantnag, in southern Kashmir, a few days after the massacre. Local people believe - and they have evidence - that the five men were subsequently murdered by security forces.

The Indian Army claimed on 25 March that it had killed five men responsible for the massacre of Sikhs in an "encounter" with Islamic militants 20km from the village of Chatti-Singhpura where the massacre took place. Many in Anantnag believe that the "encounter" was simply the murder of scapegoats. The bodies were too badly burnt to be identified, but relatives of the missing men found fragments of their clothing among the ashes.

Yesterday's new horror came as Anantnag, after several days of total shutdown, seemed to be returning to normal.

The town's Bar Association organised a prayer meeting to calm the community's anger.Last Friday, Anantnag's deputy commissioner, Dr Pawan Kotwal, had agreed to appoint a magistrate to carry out the exhumation and identification of the five bodies.

Announcing that the magistrate, accompanied by a team of doctors, would begin work today, the president of the Bar Association, Munir Uddin Shawl, urged townspeople to return to work.

But yesterday's deaths, after demonstrations in the nearby village of Barakpora, poisoned the mood. Police promptly clamped a curfew on the town and three separatist leaders were detained in Srinagar.

After the massacre of the Sikhs, India was quick to claim it as a case of "cross-border terrorism", the work of two Islamic militias prominent in the Kashmir Valley. Both militias denied involvement, blaming Indian intelligence agencies.

India acted quickly to defuse the debate, arresting a man claimed to be the "kingpin" of the gang responsible, and following up with the killing of his five "accomplices".

But the claims of abduction and murder have re-ignited the controversy over the massacre.

Fortunately for the government, however, the Indian media have shown no appetite for investigating the truth behind the atrocity.

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