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SRINAGAR, India, July 8, 2018 (News Wires) — Armed police and soldiers fanned out across much of Indian-controlled Kashmir to enforce a security lockdown on Sunday as separatists challenging Indian rule called for a shutdown and protests on the second anniversary of the killing of a charismatic rebel leader.

Government forces patrolled deserted streets and sealed off the hometown of Burhan Wani in anticipation of widespread anti-India protests and clashes in the region. Wani, 22, was killed along with two associates in a brief gunbattle with Indian troops two years ago.

Separatist leaders called for a general strike and protest march to Wani’s hometown to honour him. The killing triggered open defiance against Indian rule and led to months of massive protests and clashes in the disputed region. At least 90 people, mostly young men and students, were killed and thousands wounded, hundreds of them in the eyes and blinded by shotgun pellets fired by Indian troops.

Despite security restrictions, nearly 200 students in the University of Kashmir campus staged a protest seeking an end to Indian rule. The students carried Wani’s photographs and displayed placards while chanting slogans like “Farewell our martyr” and “Go India, go back.”

Police and paramilitary soldiers in riot gear and carrying automatic rifles laid steel barricades and coiled razor wire on roads and intersections to cut off neighbourhoods in a bid to stop protests. Authorities also suspended internet on mobile phones in the region, in a common practice to make organizing protests more difficult.

The anniversary comes a day after the Indian military’s firing killed a teenage girl and two young men in a southern village.

Wani had rejuvenated Hizbul Mujahideen, the largest of Kashmir’s militant groups as he attracted dozens of new recruits while using Facebook and other social media sites. His death and subsequent protests made the armed rebellion mainstream in Kashmir and gave new life to the rebel movement that had withered in recent years, reduced to just about 100 fighters in scattered guerrilla groups.

According to official estimation, about 200 young men have joined rebel ranks, some of them after snatching weapons from soldiers and police, since Wani’s killing.

It also cemented a shift in public behaviour by displaying anger at Indian rule openly and violently when troops raid villages and towns to hunt rebels. Villagers who had learned to hide any sympathy they felt for fighters now speak of them openly with reverence and warmth and also engage in deadly clashes with government forces during their counterinsurgency operations.

Anti-India sentiment runs deep in Kashmir, a Himalayan territory divided between India and Pakistan but claimed by both in its entirety.

Rebels have been fighting Indian control since 1989, demanding that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country. India accuses Pakistan of arming and training the rebels, a charge Pakistan denies.

Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.

GENEVA, June 14, 2018 (News Wires) — The U.N. human rights chief is calling for a commission of inquiry to conduct an independent, international investigation into alleged rights violations in Kashmir.

A first U.N. report on the rights situation in the contested region details violations and abuses in both Indian- and Pakistani-held portions of Kashmir, and highlights “chronic impunity for violations committed by security forces.”

It adds to criticism about India’s tactics in Kashmir, saying its security forces used “excessive force that led to unlawful killings” and caused many injuries.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said the conflict “has robbed millions of their basic human rights.”

The report released Thursday, based on remote monitoring, says U.N. investigators have been denied unconditional access to either side of the Line of Control dividing Kashmir.

SRINAGAR, India, June 10, 2018 (News Wires) — A group of militants sneaked into the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir from the Pakistani side of the disputed territory on Sunday, sparking a gunbattle that left at least six suspected rebels dead, the Indian military said.

The fighting began early Sunday when soldiers intercepted a group of insurgents along the highly militarized de facto border that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan, said Col. Rajesh Kalia.

He said soldiers were still carrying out search operations in the remote and forested northwestern Keran sector, where the incident occurred.

There was no independent confirmation.

On Thursday, at least one soldier was killed and another wounded after suspected militants attacked an Indian patrol in the same area, the army said.

Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan each administer part of Kashmir, but both claim it in its entirety. Rebel groups have been fighting since 1989 and demand that Kashmir be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.

Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown since 1989.

India accuses Pakistan of arming and training anti-India rebels and also helping them by providing gunfire as cover for incursions into the Indian side.

Pakistan denies this, saying it offers only moral and diplomatic support to the militants and to Kashmiris who oppose Indian rule.

Most Kashmiris support the rebel cause while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian control.

SRINAGAR, India, June 3, 2018 (News Wires) — Two paramilitary soldiers were killed and eight civilians wounded Sunday when Pakistani soldiers attacked dozens of forward posts along the highly militarized frontier in disputed Kashmir, Indian officials said.

The fighting comes barely a week after the two nuclear-armed rivals agreed to stop trading fire along the volatile frontier and uphold a cease-fire accord dating back 15 years. The two sides on Tuesday agreed to defuse tensions in Kashmir and use existing mechanisms of hotline contacts and border meetings at local commanders’ level to resolve the issues.

Pakistan did not immediately comment.

Indian border guards said Pakistan “yet again blatantly” violated the 2003-cease-fire agreement and they were retaliating. They said the Pakistani shelling was “indiscriminate and unprovoked” and was not just targeting paramilitary outposts but also villages.

Indian authorities were first trying to evacuate sick and injured villagers living near the frontier in bulletproof vehicles amid intense shelling and automatic gunfire, said top police officer S.D. Singh.

Singh said they have kept temporary shelters ready to receive frontier residents.

Tensions have soared in recent months, as both sides have shelled border posts and villagers. Each side has accused the other of starting the hostilities in violation of the 2003 accord.

India says 25 civilians and 18 soldiers have been killed this year in over 800 cease-fire violations initiated by Pakistan.

Pakistan accuses Indian forces of more than 1,050 cease-fire violations this year, resulting in the deaths of 28 civilians and injuries to 117 others.

The soldiers from the two nations have engaged in fierce border skirmishes along the rugged and mountainous Line of Control, as well as a lower-altitude 200-kilometre (125-mile) boundary separating Indian-controlled Kashmir and the Pakistani province of Punjab, where most of the latest fighting occurred.

India and Pakistan have a long history of bitter relations over Kashmir, which both claim. They have fought two of their three wars since 1947 over their competing claims to the region.

The fighting has become a predictable cycle of violence as the region convulses with decades-old animosities between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, where rebel groups demand that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.

India accuses Pakistan of arming and training anti-India rebels and also helping them by providing gunfire as cover for incursions into the Indian side.

Pakistan denies this, saying it offers only moral and diplomatic support to the militants and to Kashmiris who oppose Indian rule.

Rebels have been fighting Indian rule since 1989. Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.

SRINAGAR, India, May 30, 2018 (Reuters) - Thousands of people from the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir headed back to their homes near the de facto border with Pakistan on Wednesday, after their armies agreed to stop exchanging artillery fire following repeated recent clashes.

More than 50,000 people had taken shelter in schools and colleges in the Indian-ruled part of disputed Kashmir, away from the shelling that officials say killed 12 people and wounded many more on both sides over the past few weeks.

Mountainous Kashmir is divided between the nuclear-armed neighbours, who both claim it in full and have fought two of their three wars over the region since their separation in 1947. On Tuesday, their armies agreed to “fully implement” a 2003 ceasefire agreement.

“In case of any issue, restraint will be exercised and the matter will be resolved through utilisation of existing mechanisms of hotline contacts and border flag meetings at local commander’s level,” Pakistan’s military said in a statement.

Bacchan Lal, the headman of Abdullian village in Jammu and Kashmir, who has been living in a college with 350 other people over the past two weeks, said such agreements rarely last long.

“They agree to respect the ceasefire several times every year but then they violate it again. Every time people are killed, cattle perish and we end up in such camps,” he said. “We are in camps for the second time this year. We don’t want this uncertainty. We want permanent peace as we had 30 years ago”.

Farmer Chuni Lal, 45, said he was worried about a delay in sowing premium Basmati rice this year because of the hostility. He said tillers like him could not afford to miss the key planting season, urging the countries to find a lasting solution to the regular outbreaks of firing.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, who runs the state with the support of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party, welcomed the ceasefire agreement.

“This brings great relief to the people residing in the vicinity,” she said on Twitter on Wednesday. “Peace on our borders is the first essential step to a larger understanding and I truly hope it sustains.”

Tensions between the two sides had escalated since an attack on an Indian army camp in February that India blamed on Pakistan. Islamabad regularly denies Indian allegations that it trains and arms militants and helps them infiltrate across the so-called Line of Control that divides Kashmir.

MUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan, May 13, 2018 (News Wires) — A Pakistani official says an old wooden bridge over a fast-moving river in Kashmir collapsed as 23 students were taking pictures on it, leading to at least three deaths.

Raja Shahid Mahmood, an administrator in the scenic Neelum valley, says five students were rescued after the bridge collapsed Sunday, and that rescuers are looking for others.

The Neelum Valley is a popular tourist destination in the Pakistan-administered part of Kashmir. The students, in their early 20s, attend the medical college at Faisalabad.

Kashmir is split between Pakistan and India, both of which claim the Himalayan region in its entirety.

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