Militants kill 5 Indian paramilitary police in Kashmir attack

Amnesty slams detention law in Indian Kashmir

Members of the Indian Central Reserve Police Force carry the body of their colleague, who was killed in an attack by militants in south Kashmir's Anantnag district, on Wednesday. — Reuters

SRINAGAR, India — Militants killed five Indian paramilitary police on Wednesday in an attack on security forces deployed in a Kashmiri town, a senior police officer said.

Three paramilitaries, a local policeman and a woman bystander were wounded, and one militant was killed when the police returned fire, he said.

The attack in Anantnag town was claimed by Al Umar Mujahideen, a militant group based in Kashmir. It was the deadliest in Indian Kashmir since February, when a suicide bomber rammed an explosive-laden car into a bus, killing 40 paramilitary police.

That bombing raised tensions between nuclear-armed neighbors India and Pakistan, part of whose border runs through the disputed, Muslim-majority region.

Separately on Wednesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Cabinet agreed to extend direct federal rule over the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Meanwhile in another development, Amnesty International said on Wednesday that laws in Indian-administered Kashmir allowing imprisonment for up to two years without charge or trial violate national and global justice. Since an anti-India insurgency erupted in the heavily militarized territory three decades ago, thousands of people have been detained under the Public Safety Act (PSA).

Amnesty said in a new report that the PSA "circumvents the criminal justice system in Jammu and Kashmir to undermine accountability, transparency and respect for human rights".

It "violate(s) Indian and international human rights laws" and contributes to inflaming tensions between the state authorities and locals, said Aakar Patel, Head of Amnesty International India.

The 44-page report analyses cases of 210 detainees between 2012 and 2018.

In 70 percent of the cases, imprisoned persons faced both PSA detentions and criminal proceedings in parallel on the basis of the same or similar allegations, Amnesty said.

Prominent activist Masarat Alam remains in jail under the law despite courts quashing 38 detention orders against him.

"The police appear to use the PSA as a safety net, using it to secure the detention of suspects who are released, or likely to be released, on bail," said Zahoor Wani, who led the research.

"Conversations with local lawyers suggest that the state police do not favor criminal proceedings as they involve a higher standard of proof and a presumption of innocence."

The PSA law was initially brought in more than four decades ago to deal with timber smugglers, but since 1989 — when an armed rebellion against Indian rule began — its use has widened.

Amnesty had been due to hold a press conference to publish the report in Srinagar on Wednesday, but canceled after police, citing security concerns, said the group did not have permission,

Amnesty nonetheless circulated the report to journalists and put it up on its website.

Patel said that copies of the report had been shared with police and the state government ahead of its scheduled release, but they had not responded.

On Wednesday there was no immediate comment from the authorities.

Rebel groups in Kashmir who are widely supported by residents have been fighting some 500,000 Indian soldiers deployed in the territory, seeking independence or a merger of the former kingdom with Pakistan.

Rights groups say the fighting has left more than 70,000 people dead so far, most of them civilians.

Pakistan separately administers a part of Kashmir, divided between the rivals since they gained independence from British colonial rule in 1947. Both claim the Himalayan territory in full.

In June last year New Delhi rejected a UN report accusing India of using excessive force against residents and violating their human rights in recent years and calling for an international inquiry. — Agencies