Corey Flintoff in Kashmir

From National Public Radio: “Protests Flare in Kashmir as…

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“India says it is taking a new approach to the decades-old conflict with Pakistan over the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir. The Indian government is seeking a dialogue with Kashmiri separatists.

Both India and Pakistan claim the Muslim-majority state on the edge of the Himalayas. After the British empire in India ended in 1947, the rivals fought three armed conflicts over Kashmir, the last in 1999, after the two sides had acknowledged acquiring nuclear weapons.

Since then, the Indian government has largely suppressed the Pakistan-backed insurgency, but the conflict has taken on a new dimension — an indigenous street protest movement, not unlike the Palestinian uprisings against Israel in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The protests are carried out mainly by young men and boys. Since June, many of them have devolved into stone-throwing clashes with Indian security forces. Over the past four months, Indian forces have killed scores of Kashmiris.

The protests have spread beyond cities like Srinagar, the state capital, to small towns in the countryside, making it more difficult for authorities to contain is the demonstrations.

On a recent day in Bandi Pora, a farming community surrounded by fruit orchards and the fabled peaks of the Himalayas, the chilly air was filled with the acrid smell of tear gas from sporadic protests by small crowds of young men and boys.

The protesters moved from street to street, many of them masked by scarves with holes cut for the eyes.

They chanted slogans, calling for azadi, or freedom, and shouted: “India go back.”

The young men hurled a rock at armed Indian security men who had blocked one end of a street. The security forces answered with tear gas.

Many of these confrontations escalate into stone throwing by protesters and beatings or shootings by police. Each side accuses the other of starting the fights.

According to separatists, since June more than 111 people have been killed in encounters with the CRFP, India’s paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force. Police won’t comment on individual cases, but spokesmen have accused the protesters of provoking fights by throwing stones at police.

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