Officials say mortars fired by Indian troops into Pakistan-administered Kashmir targeted civilians and damaged nearly a dozen homes. Meanwhile, Pakistanis in capital Islamabad rally in support of the people of Kashmir.
Pakistani authorities said on Sunday that mortars fired by Indian troops into Pakistan's portion of the disputed Kashmir region have killed three civilians and damaged nearly a dozen homes in recent days.
However, India's military blamed Pakistan's forces for initiating the shooting, calling it an "unprovoked ceasefire violation."
Although Pakistan and India often exchange fire in Kashmir, skirmishes have increased in the past several days.
Tensions in Muslim-majority Kashmir — which is divided between Pakistan and India but claimed by both in its entirety — have escalated since August. That's when India downgraded the limited autonomy of the portion of Kashmir it administers, central to New Delhi's 1947 accession treaty with Kashmir, and imposed a stringent lockdown.
Disaster management authorities and other officials in Pakistan-administered Kashmir said several people have also been wounded when India allegedly targeted civilian population.
Pakistan's military said it returned fire in the past 72 hours, causing damages to Indian posts.
Devender Anand, an Indian Army spokesman, said Pakistani soldiers had fired mortars and artillery shells and small arms at least a half a dozen places in the last three days. He added that the Indian soldiers "retaliated effectively."
Reporting from Bughna Village in #NeelumValley #Pakistan Administered #Kashmir, where civilians and their properties have been targeted by #IndianArmy, Indian Media, #Indian authorities and the media are calling these houses a terrorist camp, There is no truth this Indian claim pic.twitter.com/2fAMPkyJds— Amiruddin Mughal (@MughalAmiruddin) December 22, 2019
Mega rally for Kashmir
The latest development comes as supporters from a religious Pakistani party, Jamaat-e-Islami, held a large rally in the capital, Islamabad, to express solidarity with people living in India-administered Kashmir.
Crowds waved Pakistani, Kashmiri and party flags, shouting slogans in support of Kashmir and its people.
Siraj ul Haq, the head of Jamaat-e-Islami party, was one of the speakers addressing the crowds.
"The Security Council is not taking any actions on Kashmir's issue. The United Nations is not doing anything, so I ask what is the solution? Now I ask you, people, is there any other way expect Jihad for the freedom of Kashmir?"
Pakistan and India have fought two of their three wars on Kashmir after gaining independence from Britain in 1947. Over a dozen rebel groups in Kashmir have been fighting asymmetric warfare against over 500,000 Indian soldiers since 1989.
Anti-India sentiment runs deep in Kashmir's mostly Muslim population and most people support the rebels' cause against Indian rule. Nearly 100,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.
The Indian military has been accused of suppressing the Kashmiri uprising using brutal tactics, including the infamous pellet guns which have wounded or blinded many Kashmiris.