Indian Army using civilians as human shields in IOK: Report » Kashmir Media Service

Srinagar, May 01 (KMS): In occupied Kashmir, Indian Army soldiers are using civilians as human shields during cordon and search operations, reports Reuters.

A report published by the Reuters, a renowned international news organization, said that hundreds of Indian soldiers descended on the scenic village of Pinglan in Pulwama district of occupied Kashmir just before midnight on February 17. The report said that by the time Indian soldiers left 18 hours later, one civilian, three fighters and five members of the Indian forces were dead, a row of houses was reduced to rubble, an unexploded missile had been planted in a rice field, and more than 120 villagers had sought treatment for exposure to teargas, beatings, and in some cases mental trauma.

The report said that the Reuters spent two days in Pinglan, a village that has a population of about 6,400, about a month after the crackdown to piece together what happened during those hours. Interviews with more than 60 eyewitnesses indicate that soldiers forced at least four villagers to act as human shields. That meant sending them first into a building where local fighters might be hiding.

It said that an attack on Indian troops, which had left over 40 of them dead on February 14, in Pulwama sparked a huge crackdown in the occupied territory as the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave the troops a “free hand” to respond. Since the attack, hundreds of Kashmiris have been arrested, and dozens of fighters and civilians martyred in what the authorities term “encounters”.

The report said that on February 17 – three days after the attack – from about 11:30 pm, Indian forces cordoned off all the roads leading into Pinglan and began going house-to-house.

“Residents interviewed in Pinglan were almost all openly hostile to India and its soldiers. Many people said the village had not seen an armed confrontation between local fighters and troops for decades,” it said.

A resident’s account of a village being taken by the army as a human shield was consistent with the testimony of three other people, all of whom told Reuters they were forced to perform similar tasks.

“Human rights lawyers say such tactics which are meant to deter fighters from firing on soldiers carrying out the raids are highly questionable and could even be a war crime under international law. But they would not be illegal under Indian law,” the report said.

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