Helicopters and drones circled the skies as nearly 4,000 soldiers swarmed 20 villages over the course of 10 hours with paramilitary forces and police in tow to conduct house-to-house raids Thursday in one of the largest search operations recently seen in the Indian-occupied and controlled region of Jammu and Kashmir.
The operation was conducted by Indian security forces in their hunt for rebels they deem “terrorists” in the ongoing crackdown against the region’s uprising.
It comes after five police officers were shot dead last week by rebels in a raid against a bank van that was carrying cash, one in a number of recent lootings carried out by rebels. The previous week also saw three Indian soldiers killed in an assault near the de-facto border known as the Line of Control, which divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan.
Flash: Many students injured in Sopore while resisting Indian forces attack on protest march. #Kashmir— Occupied Kashmir (@OccupiedKashmir) May 4, 2017
The attacks are a part of a 28-year armed struggle against Indian occupation forces in the region, who maintain their control over the territory that is considered the most densely militarized region of the world.
While helicopters hovered over the villages, ground forces stood at village entry points, with many residents of the area bewildered at the sheer number of soldiers on hand during the day-long raid.
"We don't know what is going on," Mohammed Subhan Mir, the head of the village of Darazpora, said at the time, according to the Associated Press. "There are soldiers all around us, moving everywhere as if it is war."
After 10 hours, the operation was called off, with the police stating they had not found any militants. However, senior police officer S.P. Pani said the operation was successful because it had curtailed the resistance.
"Still, it was a successful operation as we could sweep through so many villages with a bare minimum of local resistance,” he stated, AP reported.
During the raids, students and other demonstrators chanted slogans about independence and threw rocks at government forces, which responded with tear gas in the northwestern town of Sopore, with 10 students reportedly injured.
Students have been mobilizing as of late after troops raided a college in the southern town of Pulwama last month.
Elsewhere, in the villages of Sug and Tarkwangan, hundreds of residents also poured into the streets during the search operations and threw stones at soldiers.
Stone-throwing is a method often employed by Kashmiris to stand up to Indian government forces, similar to how Palestinians stand up to the Israeli occupation.
Sanjay Kak, author of “Until My Freedom Has Come: The New Intifada in Kashmir,” has thus deemed civilian resistance against military occupation and rule in the region as an “intifada,” the Arabic term meaning uprising, which, again, is often used to describe Palestinian resistance against Israeli occupation.
The decades-long uprising has seen rebels and ordinary Kashmiris and residents of Jammu fight against the roughly 500,000 Indian soldiers deployed in the region, with some demanding independence and others a merger of the entire territory with Pakistan.
The rebels’ ranks have grown since July in the wake of the killing of a popular rebel leader, Burhan Wani, the commander of Hizbul Mujahedeen, in an Indian security crackdown that left at least 100 civilians dead.