KARACHI, Pakistan 

More than 470 people, including suspected separatists and Indian army troops, were killed in gunfights and “staged” clashes in Jammu and Kashmir in 2020, according to a report released on Wednesday.

Prepared by the Legal Forum for Oppressed Voices of Kashmir, the report on the situation of human rights in the disputed region said that a total of 474 people, including 232 suspected militants and 177 Indian troops, were killed from Jan.1 to Dec. 30 this year.

Some 65 civilians were killed “extra-judicially,” meaning in staged gunfights, according to the report which particularly highlighted the “extra-judicial” killings of three laborers in the Shopian district in a staged gunfight in August.

A total of 2,773 people were detained and arrested by Indian forces and put in different jails across India during this year, the report by the Kasmir-based international group noted.

The Indian forces, it added, launched 312 cordon and search operations, and cordon and destroy operations, which resulted in 124 clashes between the security forces and the suspected militants.

During clashes, at least 657 houses were vandalized and destroyed by the “Indian occupying forces.”

The destruction of civilian properties during encounters saw an increase during the COVID-19 lockdown enforced by the government; an entire village in the Budgam district was vandalized, leaving many families homeless and without shelter, the report said.

“2020 may be recorded as Zero year in the human history as the COVID-19 pandemic forced most of global citizenry inside their homes to save themselves from the deadly infection. However, for the Indian-occupied Kashmir, this year added more complications and saw no letup in atrocities committed by the Indian occupying forces,” it read.

This came despite the fact that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for a global cease-fire in conflict regions amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the report added.

Journalists working for local and international media continued to face “pressure, intimidation and harassment by the Indian authorities,” it maintained.

“Many journalists were booked under criminal laws while one still remains behind bars amid delayed trial by the government agencies.”

The year, it added, also saw the continuation of the ban on high-speed internet services which remain in force following the scrapping of the region’s longstanding semi-autonomous status in August last year.

“The right to access information continues to be severely restricted in Jammu and Kashmir as part of India’s all-out onslaught against Kashmiris as there were 141 instances of internet blockades recorded from Jan.1 to Dec. 30 2020,” it noted.

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