29 Hindus Slain by Suspected Sikh Militants, Police Kill 6 Sikh Guerrillas
LUCKNOW, India (AP) _ Sikh separatists shot and killed 29 Hindu villagers they had kidnapped in the jungles of central India, police said today. And clashes involving militants claimed the lives of a separatist leader and 13 others in northwest Punjab state, police said.
The bodies of the kidnapped Hindus were recovered in the forest where the villagers had gone Friday to collect roots to sell as food. It was not immediately known when they were shot.
Sikh militants, campaigning for an independent Sikh nation in Punjab, often target Hindus, the religious majority that accounts for 82 percent of India’s 844 million people.
The killing took place near Pilibhit south of the Nepalese border, in India’s Uttar Pradesh state, police spokesman M.P. Mishra said.
Many Sikh militants fled to the area after the Indian army reinforced the Punjab police against the separatists earlier this year. The region is about 155 miles east of New Delhi and 74 miles west of Lucknow, capital of Uttar Pradesh state.
In Punjab, Indian security forces today fatally shot six Sikh militants, said police in Chandigarh, capital of the northern state.
Among the dead was Navroop Singh Dhotian, the deputy commander of the Khalistan Liberation Force. He was the second-in-command of Gurjant Singh Bhudsinghwala, who was killed last Thursday in what police called a major victory for the security forces.
In other incidents in Punjab, militants killed eight people, said a state police official in Chandigarh.
The militants say they are discriminated against culturally and politically in India. They account for 2 percent of the overall population but constitute a slight majority in Punjab.
At least 2,471 people have died in separatist-related violence this year.