Kashmir killings trial

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The Independent Online
New Delhi - Four officers and 10 other members of India's paramilitary Border Security Force (BSF) are to be court- martialled over the killing of at least 31 Kashmiri demonstrators, the Pioneer newspaper said yesterday.

It said the trials had been recommended in an internal BSF report into the shootings of the demonstrators last October as they protested against an army siege of Kashmir's holiest Muslim shrine, where secessionist militants were holed up.

The siege of Hazratbal, where Kashmiri Muslims believe that a hair from the beard of the prophet Mohamed is housed, caused a furore in the Himalayan region, where Indian security forces are fighting a bloody secessionist uprising.

The siege ended peacefully, with the militants surrendering and being freed some weeks later. During the siege, however, numerous demonstrations were held, and some of them turned violent.

Kashmiri leaders in India's only Muslim-majority state called massive protests on 22 October last year, and BSF men were deployed in the town of Bijbehara, not far from Indian- ruled Kashmir's summer capital of Srinagar. They were to enforce a curfew imposed by the government and to keep open a road vital to army links with forces stationed on the line that divides the region from Pakistani-ruled Kashmir.

Survivors of the BSF shooting, who alleged that more than 40 people were killed, said at the time that the firing was unprovoked, and denied that militants shot first, as the BSF report alleges. The newspaper did not say when the courts martial would begin. Reuter