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Thursday, 30 March, 2000, 15:34 GMT 16:34 UK
Protest against Kashmir 'disappearances'

Indian soldiers have cracked down after last week's massacre
Hundreds of Kashmiri villagers have staged a protest against Indian security forces, alleging the disappearance of Muslim civilians.

The demonstrators say many young Muslim men had been detained by the security forces after a massacre last week, in which 36 Sikhs were killed.



During the intervening night ... Indian security forces ... came and took away several villagers

Local residents
They are also reported to have demanded that DNA tests be carried out on six suspected militants, killed by Indian counter-insurgency units on Wednesday.

The Indian army denies the allegations and said the six were part of a group that carried out last week's killings.

Disappearance

Police used batons and rifle butts to break up the demonstration which took place outside the district commissioner's office in Anantnag in Indian-administered Kashmir.



Kashmiris protest against "indiscriminate arrests"
"During the intervening night of 23 and 24 March, Indian security forces in mufti [plainsclothes] came and took away several villagers ... and later killed them to please the Sikhs," a statement released by the villagers said.

A local politician and daughter of a former Indian home minister also accused Indian soldiers of targeting innocent civilians.

"In their desperation to prove that they [security forces] were not involved in the massacre they may be taking wrong steps," Mehbooba Mufti said.

Reports say the local administration has ordered an investigation into the allegations.

Massacre

The six militants were killed in a shootout with Indian troops at Kukernag, in Anantnag district.

An Indian army spokesman said the militants were members of two leading separatist groups, the Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Toiba who, India says, are backed by Pakistan.



First time that the Sikh community was targetted
Indian officials have charged the two groups with carrying out the massacre on 20 March, in Chattisinghpora village.

Both groups rejected the charge and Pakistan accused Indian agents of the killings which, they said, were used to discredit Kashmiri separatists.

The BBC's Daniel Lak says there has been an air of mystery surrounding the incident because Kashmiri Sikhs have never before been targets of violence in Kashmir.

Meanwhile, a leading Kashmiri separatist alliance, the All Party Hurriyat Conference, said it was organising visits by Muslim and Sikh leaders to Sikh majority villages.

They said the visits were meant to reassure the minority Sikh community after the recent killings.

The Chattisinghpora attack took place during the visit of US President Bill Clinton to India.

It was widely condemned and President Clinton called for an end to violence and killing of civilians.

India blames Pakistan for arming the separatists but Pakistan says it only offers moral and diplomatic support.

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See also:

24 Mar 00 | South Asia
Kashmiris protest at Sikh killings
23 Mar 00 | South Asia
Crackdown on Sikh protests
21 Mar 00 | South Asia
Eyewitness: Outpouring of grief
21 Mar 00 | South Asia
Safety fears for Kashmir's Sikhs
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