Pakistani military says it killed one Indian soldier and injured three others following an Indian mortar fire on homes in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Meanwhile, Kashmir journalists accuse Indian police of muzzling press.

Pakistani Kashmiris collect their belongings amid the debris of their homes that were reportedly destroyed by shelling from Indian troops, in Neelum Valley, situated at the Line of Control in Pakistani Kashmir, Monday, December 23, 2019.
Pakistani Kashmiris collect their belongings amid the debris of their homes that were reportedly destroyed by shelling from Indian troops, in Neelum Valley, situated at the Line of Control in Pakistani Kashmir, Monday, December 23, 2019. (AP Archive)

Pakistan said on Monday that Indian mortar fire wounded at least 10 civilians when it crashed into homes in the Pakistan-administered side of the disputed Kashmir region.

In a statement, the Pakistani military said it fired back in response to the "unprovoked ceasefire violations," killing one Indian soldier and wounding three others in the past 24 hours. 

There was no immediate comment from New Delhi.

Pakistan and India often trade fire along Kashmir's heavily militarised frontier. The South Asian nuclear rivals have fought two of their three wars over the divided province which both countries claim in its entirety.

Tensions in the disputed Himalayan region have peaked since last August. That's when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist-led government stripped the side of Kashmir it controls of its semi-autonomous status and annexed it. 

Modi says the move is meant to develop conflict-ridden Kashmir. Many Kashmiris, however, say India plans to change the demography of the Muslim-majority region by settling non-local Hindus.  

India's August 5 decision came with the stringent lockdown of the disputed Himalayan territory and communication blockade that still continues.

Indian police muzzling press?

On Monday, journalists in the region urged the Indian government to allow them to report freely and expressed concern about police harassment.

The Kashmir Press Club, an elected body of journalists in the region, said security agencies were using physical attacks, threats and summons to intimidate journalists. The group said the government should "ensure freedom of speech and expression as guaranteed in the constitution instead of muzzling the press."

On Saturday, police summoned two journalists for questioning in Srinagar for reporting about a strike call issued by the pro-independence Jammu-Kashmir Liberation Front. The Kashmir Press Club denounced the police action

"The harassment and questioning of journalists in Kashmir on flimsy grounds" by the police is "a damning verdict on the appalling condition in which media is operating," the group said in a statement.

It also criticised restrictions on the internet and surveillance by police, calling them "tools designed and aimed to ensure only the government-promoted version is heard."

India's decision to strip the region of its special status in August brought journalism to a near halt in Kashmir. 

A communications shutdown affected media operations, and most newspapers published in Srinagar, the region's main city, have been unable to issue online editions.

Foreign journalists have been denied permission to visit the Himalayan region.

India is ranked 140th out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders, a global media watchdog.

Kashmiri journalists protest against internet blockade put by India's government in Srinagar on October 12, 2019.
Kashmiri journalists protest against internet blockade put by India's government in Srinagar on October 12, 2019. (Tauseef Mustafa / AFP)

Deadly conflict 

The conflict over Kashmir began in the late 1940s when India and Pakistan won independence from the British empire and began fighting over their rival claims to the region.

Since 1989, a full-blown armed rebellion has raged in the Indian-administered portion seeking a united Kashmir — either under Pakistani rule or independent of both countries. India accuses Pakistan of training and arming the rebels, a charge Islamabad denies. Pakistan says it will continue backing Kashmiris' right to self-determination according to several UN resolutions. 

Around 100,000 people have been killed in the uprising and an Indian military crackdown.

Source: AP