The videos show a chaotic scene. People are throwing rocks at vehicles as shots ring out. This footage was captured in the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir on December 15. On that day, security forces opened fire on civilians, killing seven people. The protesters had taken to the streets to show their support for separatist rebels after the rebels faced off with security forces in a gun battle.

On December 15, a gun battle broke out between security forces and separatist rebels in Kharpora Sirnoo, a village in the Pulwama district. Four people were killed in these clashes.

Hundreds of civilians then poured into the street to protest in support of the separatist rebels. Some of them started throwing stones at the security forces, who then opened fire on them.

In the video below, you can see several different tan and white vehicles, lined up one after another. In the distance, several people dressed in civilian clothing are throwing things at the vehicles. People are running as shots ring out.



Another video shows a similar scene: people dressed in civilian clothing are running. You can hear gunshots and see smoke curling up from vehicles. No one seems to be throwing anything in this video.


Our team also received a third video via WhatsApp. This video shows a group of civilians standing next to cars. One of them is shot and crumples to the ground.
 

Screengrab from the 11-second video, which shows a civilian collapsing after being shot.

"I saw a man get shot in the head while he was drinking water"

Our team spoke to a man living in the area, who wanted to stay anonymous for safety reasons.

Rebels had been hiding in the area and on that morning, the security forces had it on lockdown. But lots of people came out in support of the rebels. At around 11:30 am, the security forces started firing in the direction of the civilians. A man was killed right by where I was. He was shot in the head while he was drinking water. The next thing I knew, he was lying there in a pool of blood.

There were very few people who were close to where the security forces were, though some people did run over to help those who had been shot.

If the security forces had just wanted to disperse people, they could have shot their feet. But it seemed like they were trying to kill them because people were shot in the head, chest or stomach.

Later in the day, I went to the hospital where I saw several people who had been injured.


In total, seven protesters and about 50 more were injured. In other parts of the region, other protests against the Indian government broke out and there were several other clashes between protesters and security forces.

According to RFI radio, support has grown for the separatist rebels among the population since the death of one of their commanders, Burhan Wani, two years ago.

Kashmir is a mountainous region that has been split up by India, Pakistan and China since the end of British colonial rule in 1947.

Most of the people who live in the Indian part of Kashmir are Muslim. In the late 1990s, a separatist movement began to grow there. India frequently accuses Pakistan of arming the separatists. A large number of Indian soldiers are stationed there.

The year 2018 was a particularly deadly one for Kashmir. According to Indian security forces, about 230 rebels were killed. A local organisation claimed that the number was much higher: they reported that more than 500 people had been killed and that 150 of those were civilians. That would make it the highest death toll in a decade.

In the past 10 years, an estimated 70,000 people, most of them civilians, have lost their lives in the ongoing conflict.

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Article written by Chloé Lauvergnier (@clauvergnier).