Kashmiri families demand answers for ‘unaccounted for’ deaths

AFP
August 22,2019

SRINAGAR: Rafiq Shagu´s wife died shortly after Friday prayers in Indian occupied Kashmir when tear gas smashed through a window in their home and filled the room.Now, with Indian authorities...

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SRINAGAR: Rafiq Shagu´s wife died shortly after Friday prayers in Indian occupied Kashmir when tear gas smashed through a window in their home and filled the room.

Now, with Indian authorities denying their troops have caused any civilian deaths while enforcing a lockdown of more than two weeks in the Himalayan region, he is facing what may be a futile quest to hold those responsible to account.

"They (the police) are not ready to take responsibility for the death. We want answers but I don´t know where to seek justice," Shagu said. In an interview with AFP, Shagu recalled the horrific events of the August 9 afternoon when he said his wife, Fehmeeda, was teaching her two children at their home in Srinagar, the largest city in Indian occupied Kashmir.

Shagu said there had been small clashes between government forces and protesters nearby, then police started firing tear gas and pepper shells into residential houses. The clashes occurred four days after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi´s government stripped Kashmir of its autonomy, with tens of thousands of extra troops deployed there ahead of the announcement to stop residents from protesting.

"We couldn´t see each other in the room as the smoke was so dense. There were three huge thuds when the canisters burst," Shagu said. "We somehow removed the children from the room and as she tried to run out amid the chaos, she fell. By the time we moved her out of the room she was unconscious and frothing."

He said Fehmeeda was taken to hospital on a motorcycle where doctors were unable to revive her. The medical report seen by AFP said she "had inhaled toxic gas from a tear gas shell" and that a possible cause of death was a "toxic lung injury".

Indian authorities have sought to block any news coming out of Kashmir since imposing the curfew in the occupied Kashmir valley. Aside from deploying the extra troops, they cut off telephones, mobile phones and the internet - though some landlines have now been restored.

Authorities say there is no credible proof that anyone has died in Kashmir as a result of the lockdown, and only that eight people have been injured. But multiple hospital sources told AFP at least 100 people had been hurt, some of them by firearm injuries. Others were treated at home, fearing that they may be arrested if they visit hospitals, people who had been hit by pellets said.


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