At least four civilians were used as human shields by Indian troops as they launched an 18-hour-long operation in the Pinglan village of Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK), Reuters reported.
According to the report, by the time the operation ended, one civilian, three freedom fighters and five members of the Indian forces were dead, a row of houses was reduced to rubble and more than 120 villagers had sought treatment for exposure to tear gas, assault and mental trauma.
Eyewitnesses were quoted as saying that soldiers forced at least four villagers to act as human shields. The civilians were sent first into a building where the fighters might be hiding, using a phone to record a video that could be viewed by soldiers present nearby.
Human rights lawyers say such tactics — which are meant to deter local fighters from firing on soldiers carrying out the raids — are highly questionable and could even be a war crime under international law.
But they would not be illegal under Indian law.
“[The] Indian army has never used civilians as human shields,” said military spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Mohit Vaishnava while speaking to Reuters.
However, he said that during encounters, local people are sometimes asked to mediate between the army and freedom fighters.