Rajnath Singh in Kashmir amid tensions over civilians deaths

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh
Image caption,Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is in Kashmir to review security measures

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is visiting Indian-administered Kashmir where the deaths of three civilians allegedly in army custody have sparked fresh tensions.

The men were detained for questioning last week, after four soldiers were killed in a suspected militant attack.

Police launched an inquiry into the men’s deaths after locals accused army personnel of torturing them.

The army hasn’t commented but says it’s cooperating with the investigation.

Reports say it has also ordered its own investigation to look into the circumstances which led to the deaths.

Mr Singh, who is visiting Kashmir to review security measures in the region, on Wednesday said he was praying for the recovery of other soldiers who were injured in the attack.

“Each of our army personnel is important to us,” he said, adding that authorities were taking the “required steps” to look into the incident.

He is also expected to later meet the families of the three civilians killed in Poonch district.

The deaths have sparked anger in the valley as locals and political parties demand a fair investigation.

On Sunday, Indian authorities suspended mobile internet services in Pooch and its neighbouring district as protests intensified in some parts.

Security forces have long been accused of excesses, including beatings and torture, towards locals in Kashmir, which is one of the world’s most militarised zones.

India and Pakistan both claim Kashmir in full, but control only parts of it. The Indian army has been fighting a separatist insurgency for over three decades, which has claimed thousands of lives. India blames Pakistan for fomenting violence in the region – a charge its neighbour denies.

During this period, hundreds of families have accused Indian security forces of branding civilians as militants and staging extrajudicial killings. The army has held inquires in some cases but has denied other incidents.

Leaders and workers of Jammu and Kashmir's Apni Party during a protest on December 23, 2023 in Srinagar
Image caption,Protests erupted in Kashmir after three civilians were allegedly killed in army custody

Reports say that at least eight civilians were picked up for questioning by the army last week.

The action was reportedly taken a day after suspected militants attacked two army vehicles in Poonch, killing four soldiers and injuring three others.

Three of the detained civilians were later found dead – their bodies were handed to the police who in turn contacted their families, according to AP. The five others were taken to an army hospital where they are being treated for injuries.

A relative of one the deceased civilians told The Hindu newspaper that they were asked to collect the bodies from an army camp on Friday evening.

Families have alleged the men’s bodies https://merupakan.com showed signs of severe torture. Anger spread after a video, which purportedly showed some Indian army personnel torturing the three men, went viral on social media. The BBC could not independently verify the clip.

On Sunday, police registered a murder case against unidentified people.

In a statement the same day, the Indian Army said: “The matter is under investigation. Indian army stands committed to extending full support and cooperation in the conduct of investigations,” it said.

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