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Indian troops kill top Kashmir rebel commander Riyaz Naikoo

Indian troops killed four rebel fighters in gun battles in Indian-administered Kashmir, including the senior commander of the biggest separatist group fighting New Delhi in the disputed Himalayan region. Hundreds of Indian soldiers launched an operation late on Tuesday after receiving intelligence that Hizbul Mujahideen commander Riyaz Naikoo was hiding in a village in south…

Indian troops kill top Kashmir rebel commander Riyaz Naikoo

Indian troops killed four rebel fighters in gun battles in Indian-administered Kashmir, including the senior commander of the biggest separatist group fighting New Delhi in the disputed Himalayan region.
Hundreds of Indian soldiers launched an operation late on Tuesday after receiving intelligence that Hizbul Mujahideen commander Riyaz Naikoo was hiding in a village in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district.
Naikoo’s death is being seen as a major victory for India’s counterinsurgency efforts and is likely to spark more unrest in the disputed region.
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Police and army soldiers launched the operation in the Awantipora area in southern Kashmir based on a tip that some rebel commanders were sheltering there.
They used earth movers to dig up several patches of land, including a school playground, looking for possible underground hideouts, residents said.
Troops blasted at least two civilian homes with explosives, a common tactic employed by Indian troops in Kashmir.
“He was trapped in a house and early today a gun battle took place during which he and his associate were killed,” Kashmir’s inspector general of police, Vijay Kumar, told Reuters news agency on Wednesday.
Two rebels were killed in another firefight nearby, Kumar added.

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Teacher-turned-rebel
Naikoo, 35, joined the separatists in 2012, two years after about 100 people were killed by troops during a restive summer marked by protests and violence.
A former mathematics teacher with a bounty of 1.2 million rupees ($15,800) on his head, Naikoo was an aide to the charismatic Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, who was killed in July 2016, leading to months of unrest.
After Wani’s death, Naikoo helped give new life to the rebel movement. He unified the ranks, which had been divided by splinter factions.
Dibyesh Anand, who teaches international relations at the University of Westminster in the United Kingdom, told Al Jazeera that Naikoo’s killing will make “the relationship between Kashmir and India much worse than what it is”.
“What’s likely to happen is more frustration, more anger, more anxiety that ordinary Kashmiri population would have,” he said.
“The main intention of [India’s] Hindu nationalist government is not only to completely occupy Kashmir, but also to erase any form of resistance that Kashmiris have.”

People gather after Naikoo was killed in a gun battle with Indian soldiers at Beighpora village in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district [Younis Khaliq/Reuters]

Protests over the killings
Authorities disabled mobile internet across the Kashmir region early on Wednesday to prevent large crowds from gathering in the streets to mourn Naikoo’s killing.
Still, locals came out and pelted soldiers with stones in an attempt to disrupt the operation in which Naikoo was killed, Kumar said, adding that demonstrators had to be beaten back by troops.
“Several protesters have received pellet injures and three of them have bullet wounds. They have been hospitalised,” he said.
In all, at least 30 people were injured as protesters clashed with security forces in around a dozen spots across Kashmir, including in the main city of Srinagar, another police official said.
Protesters set fire to two police vehicles in Pulwama, the official said, declining to be named since he was not authorised to speak to media.

India at 142 on World Press Freedom Index over Kashmir blackout

Intensified operations
Amid a nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus, Indian troops have intensified operations in Kashmir, the country’s only Muslim-majority state, which was split into two federally administered territories last August.
Since late March, Indian forces have killed 36 rebels while losing about 20 soldiers, including a high-ranking army officer.
For decades, separatists have fought against Indian rule in Kashmir, wanting independence for the Himalayan region or to join Pakistan.
Kashmir is claimed in whole but ruled in part by both India and Pakistan. About 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.
There also has been almost daily fighting over the last several months along the rugged and mountainous frontier that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan.
Rebels have been fighting Indian rule since 1989. About 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.
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Indian army admits wrongdoing in killing three Kashmiris |NationalTribune.com

Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir – The Indian army says its soldiers exceeded powers under the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in the killing of three local civilians in southern Indian-administered Kashmir earlier this year. On July 18, Indian armed forces said they killed three unidentified “rebels” in Amshipora village in Shopian. An Indian army…

Indian army admits wrongdoing in killing three Kashmiris |NationalTribune.com

Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir – The Indian army says its soldiers exceeded powers under the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in the killing of three local civilians in southern Indian-administered Kashmir earlier this year.
On July 18, Indian armed forces said they killed three unidentified “rebels” in Amshipora village in Shopian.
An Indian army spokesperson on Friday said the victims were now identified as residents of Rajouri district whose families had filed a complaint accusing soldiers of killing them in a staged gun battle.
“The inquiry ordered by the Army authorities into op Amshipora has been concluded. The inquiry has brought out certain prima facie evidence indicating that during the operation, powers vested under the AFSPA 1990 were exceeded,” Colonel Rajesh Kalia, the army spokesperson, said in a statement.
“The evidence collected by the inquiry has prima-facie indicated that the three unidentified terrorists killed in Op Amshipora were Imtiyaz Ahmed, Abrar Ahmed and Mohd Ibrar, who hailed from Rajouri. Their DNA report is awaited. Their involvement with terrorism or related activities is under investigation by the police,” the statement said.

The statement by police claimed army personnel were shot at during a search operation. 
Days after the incident, a photograph of the three people killed went viral on social media following which the three families identified them and filed the complaint.
After the army’s rare admission of guilt on Friday, Muhammad Naseeb Khatana, cousin of Muhammad Ibrar told Al Jazeera the three men, all of them cousins, left Rajouri for Shopian to work as labourers.
“They reached Shopian on July 17 and that evening was the last time we talked to them. It was during the coronavirus lockdown and we thought they might have been quarantined. We kept waiting but there was no news,” said Khatana.
“When we saw the photograph, we filed a report in which we identified our relatives who were dubbed militants by the army. What more injustice could they do to the innocent people.”
Another family member said they have been deliberately denied DNA reports “for too long”.
“On August 3, our samples were taken and there is no report until now,” the relative said.
“Today, they called one member of each family and admitted that the three were killed in a fake encounter. We want them to bring those people who killed them in front of us and punish them. We want the bodies of our family members.”
Ibrar, the youngest of the trio, worked as a labourer to save money for his education, his family told Al Jazeera.
Human rights activists in Kashmir see the encounter as a gun battle in which civilians were dubbed “rebels” and killed by the army to claim monetary benefits and medals.
In May 2010, large scale protests erupted in Kashmir after a police investigation revealed the army killed three civilians in a staged gun battle at Machil area near the Line of Control in the frontier Kupwara district.
The three labourers were lured to Machil and killed there before being labelled “militants” by the army to claim a reward.

‘Widespread impunity’
Under AFSPA, a counterterrorism law with sweeping provisions, security forces enjoy “widespread impunity”.
It grants “powers” to members of the armed forces in “disturbed areas” like Kashmir to shoot-to-kill or arrest suspected people.
Section 7 of the AFSPA provides virtual impunity for human rights violations by security forces personnel, as any civilian prosecution can only proceed after obtaining prior sanction from the central government.
In the 30 years this law has been in force in Jammu and Kashmir, that authorisation has never been granted.
Parvez Imroz, a noted human rights lawyer in the region, told Al Jazeera: “This incident cannot be taken in isolation.
“They were civilians, the statement doesn’t mention it. It mentions them as terrorists.
“This incident cannot be taken in isolation, the culture of the army in 30 years needs to be looked at. The history is that the army has complete impunity, they cannot be prosecuted and punished.
“They might try to silence families unofficially which they have done in many cases in Kashmir.”
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Indian special forces member killed in China border skirmish |NationalTribune.com

A soldier of Tibetan origin with India’s special forces has reportedly been killed in the latest border confrontation between India and China on their contested Himalayan border, fuelling concerns of a wider military confrontation between the two regional powers. The death is the first reported from two incidents occurring within 48 hours on the border,…

Indian special forces member killed in China border skirmish |NationalTribune.com

A soldier of Tibetan origin with India’s special forces has reportedly been killed in the latest border confrontation between India and China on their contested Himalayan border, fuelling concerns of a wider military confrontation between the two regional powers.
The death is the first reported from two incidents occurring within 48 hours on the border, two months after a battle that left at least 20 Indian soldiers dead.
India and China, which fought a border war in 1962, have each accused the other of trying to cross their unofficial frontier in the Ladakh region in an attempt to gain territory.
Neither side has announced any casualties, but Namgyal Dolkar Lhagyari, a member of the Tibetan parliament in exile, told AFP news agency on Tuesday that the Tibetan-origin soldier was “martyred during the clash” on Saturday night. She did not identify the soldier by name.
She said another member of the Special Frontier Force, which reportedly includes many ethnic Tibetans who oppose China’s claim to their home region, was wounded in the operation.

India says 20 soldiers killed in border clash with China

 The world’s two most populous countries have sent tens of thousands of troops to the region since a brutal June 15 battle fought with wooden clubs and fists.
India has said 20 troops were killed. China has acknowledged casualties but has not given figures.
The two sides have blamed each other for the latest incidents.
Meanwhile, the United States said on Tuesday it was closely monitoring the border dispute, adding that it hoped for a peaceful resolution.
‘Provocative movements’
Earlier, India’s defence ministry said Chinese troops “carried out provocative military movements to change the status quo” at the border on Saturday.
China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) said that India was “seriously violating China’s territorial sovereignty” with its operation on Monday and demanded that Indian troops withdraw.
A Chinese embassy spokeswoman in New Delhi also denied that Chinese troops started the latest flare-up, accusing Indian troops of trespassing across the Line of Actual Control – the de facto border – and conducting “flagrant provocations”.
India’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday that China had caused the latest incident “even as ground commanders of the two sides were in discussions to de-escalate the situation.”
“Due to timely defensive action, the Indian side was able to prevent these attempts from unilaterally altering the status quo,” ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said in a statement.

India-china tensions: Calls for boycott of Chinese products

Indian media reports, quoting military sources, said PLA forces tried to take hilltops traditionally claimed by India around Pangong Tso, a lake at an altitude of 4,200 metres (13,800 feet).
India’s defence ministry said its troops “undertook measures to strengthen our positions and thwart Chinese intentions to unilaterally change facts on ground”.
In a statement on Tuesday, a United States Department of State spokesperson said Washington was closely monitoring the border dispute between India and China and it hoped for a peaceful resolution.
After the deadly incident in June, the most serious clash between the two countries in 50 years, both sides agreed to pull back with military chiefs in the region holding five rounds of talks.
But the Indian military said this week that Beijing had reneged on the agreement.
Since then, there have been growing calls in India to boycott Chinese goods, and New Delhi has repeatedly warned that relations would suffer unless Chinese troops pull back.
India has banned at least 49 Chinese owned-apps, including the TikTok video platform, frozen Chinese firms out of contracts and held up Chinese goods at customs posts as tensions have increased.
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Indian journalists assaulted by Hindu mob in New Delhi |NationalTribune.com

Three Indian journalists were attacked by a Hindu mob while reporting on a story in the capital, New Delhi, on Tuesday, the journalists have told Al Jazeera. Journalist Shahid Tantray and two colleagues were filming for The Caravan magazine in northeast Delhi, which was hit by religious violence in February. At least 53 people were killed…

Indian journalists assaulted by Hindu mob in New Delhi |NationalTribune.com

Three Indian journalists were attacked by a Hindu mob while reporting on a story in the capital, New Delhi, on Tuesday, the journalists have told Al Jazeera.
Journalist Shahid Tantray and two colleagues were filming for The Caravan magazine in northeast Delhi, which was hit by religious violence in February. At least 53 people were killed in that violence, most of them Muslims.
Tantray, who is from Indian-administered Kashmir, said they were shooting video when a small group of Hindus, including a man who identified himself as a member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), asked him why he was taking visuals there.
I stood like a wall between Shahid (Tantray) and the Hindu crowd. It was actually a do or die situation for me to save him.
Prabhjit Singh, journalist

“They grew suspicious after seeing my name on my press card,” Tantray, 28, told Al Jazeera.
“The BJP man shouted that he (Tantray) is a Muslim and started calling more people to the scene,” he said.
“The mob beat me, punched on my neck and back, and tried to strangle me with the camera strap. I have pain in my neck as well as lower back since then.”
‘Their enemy was Tantray – a Muslim’
He added that the mob kept them as “hostages” for nearly 90 minutes. His colleague, Prabhjit Singh, tried to shield him from the furious mob until two policemen stationed nearby arrived.
An additional team of police was called to save the journalists from the mob. They were later taken to the nearest police station.
Singh, a contributory writer at The Caravan, dubbed as India’s New Yorker, said Tantray and a female reporter were capturing a scene of a local street decked out with religious flags associated with Hindu far-right groups, when three to four men came out and started shouting at them for taking pictures. 

[Photo courtesy of Prabhjit Singh]

As a man kept asking for Tantray’s name, Singh began calling Tantray by a Hindu name, “Sagar”. “Chalo Sagar yahan se’ (Let’s go from here, Sagar),” Singh, who is a Sikh, told Tantray as he wanted to save him from the mob.
“I could clearly see the hatred in their eyes, the communally frenzied eyes. I wore a turban as a Sikh and they were conscious of my religious identity, too. But their enemy was Shahid (Tantray), a Muslim,” Singh told Al Jazeera.
“I stood like a wall between Shahid (Tantray) and the Hindu crowd. It was actually a do or die situation for me to save him.”
More people later gathered and the mob grew to about 100 people, he said. 
“While the female colleague managed to get out of the street, the mob locked up the gate of the colony and confined Shahid (Tantray) and me there on the street,” Singh, 50, told Al Jazeera.
The New Delhi-based magazine also claimed that the female reporter was sexually harassed. 
The mob … tried to strangle me with the camera strap. I felt closely the dangers that are prevalent for Indian Muslims. But I will not halt my work.
Shahid Tantray, journalist

Police statement
A police statement on Wednesday said the complaints were being investigated and appropriate legal action would be taken. 
“Taking pictures without consent may provoke those present and create Law and Order problems including communal problems,” the statement said.
The videos that Tantray had captured were finally deleted in the presence of police, who have yet to lodge a FIR (First Information Report or formal police complaint) regarding the incident.
“If this is happening to a journalist, we can only imagine what would be happening to people without such avenues that are available to journalists,” Tantray told Al Jazeera.
“I am definitely scared, and I felt closely the dangers that are prevalent for Indian Muslims. But I will not halt my work. As a journalist I feel it is my responsibility to bring out the truth.”

Delhi violence victim: ‘I thought I wouldn’t survive’

‘Islamophobic attack’
The attack has been condemned by rights groups and journalists.
Vinod Jose, the executive editor of The Caravan, described it as “an attack on journalism and free and fair reporting”.
Hartosh Singh Bal, the magazine’s political editor, said the attack was “the culmination of basically increase in Islamophobia and distrust of the media”.
It’s truly outrageous that the police take such a relaxed attitude to this sort of incident.
Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia Program Coordinator

“There was Islamophobia involved in the attack. It was clear from language that was used, from what was done and how they reacted to the very presence of a Muslim as a reporter,” Bal told Al Jazeera.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) demanded a thorough police investigation into the attack.
Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia Program coordinator, said attacks on journalists in India have become “all too common”. “But it’s truly outrageous that the police take such a relaxed attitude to this sort of incident,” he told Al Jazeera.
“Police should vigorously enforce the rights of journalists to work without harassment. Unless that happens, these sort of incidents could easily continue.”
Amnesty International India raised concerns against attacks on journalists.
“Yet another dangerous day for journalists in the country. Journalists from The Caravan magazine, India Today, The News Minute and Suvarna News were attacked yesterday in Delhi and Bengaluru,” Amnesty International India wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.
“Journalism is not a crime and the Delhi and Bengaluru police must show its commitment towards protecting journalists by filing an FIR and ensuring those responsible are held accountable,” the statement said.
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