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Kashmir: Protests force India army to replace Soleimani poster after burning one

February 17, 2022 at 1:32 pm

Protesters in Kashmir hold posters of Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani, who was killed by a US air strike in Iraq, 3 January 2020 [TAUSEEF MUSTAFA/AFP/Getty Images]

Indian military officers in central occupied Kashmir have been forced to apologise after allegedly burning a portrait of slain Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, triggering massive protests. Officers were later seen putting up a replacement picture, featuring Qassem Soleimani alongside Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

According to the Kashmir Observer, the incident took place on Tuesday at Malbuchan village in the Budgam district, when, during an army census in the occupied territory, soldiers from the army’s 2 Rashtriya Rifles entered a residential house and confiscated a picture of Soleimani before setting it ablaze.

Protests are said to have erupted and spread to the town centre of Magam on the Srinigar-Gulmarg highway with some even clashing with police and paramilitary personnel, the report said.

Footage was shared on social media depicting army officers affixing the picture on a wall in the predominantly-Shia Muslim Budgam district.

Another video showed the commanding officer, Colonel Raman visiting the area and issuing an apology to the community, appealing for calm and also raising a portrait of Soleimani, garnering positive reactions from the crowd.

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In a statement the police confirmed they received allegations of “misbehaviour by the security forces”.

“Today at about 1300 hours, people of village Malbuchan Magam held a protest at Magam main chowk, alleging that a party of security forces while on patrol in the village… misbehaved with the locals of the village,” police said in the statement. “Senior police and civil officers visited the spot and talked to the locals. Traffic is restored and the situation is under control.”

Deputy Inspector General of Police, Central Kashmir Sujit Kumar was quoted as saying the “issue has been sorted out and the situation is normal now.”

Pro-Iranian sentiments are popular in parts of Kashmir with the Islamic Revolution’s anniversary commemorated annually in areas like Srinagar, Budgam and Kargil. Khamenei also visited Kashmir in the 1980s, following the Islamic Revolution. The community has also become more vocal and visible in resistance against Indian-occupation in recent years, especially following the Indian government’s controversial decision to strip Kashmir’s “special status” in 2019.

Soleimani was killed in a US drone strike in Baghdad Airport in 2020 alongside the deputy head of Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation Forces, Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis. His assassination saw many Shia Kashmiris take to the streets to protest, vowing “revenge”.

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