The United Nations has asked Indian forces cracking down on separatist protests in violence-plagued Kashmir to stop wearing the distinctive powder-blue helmets of the UN peacekeeping force, a UN official said on Wednesday.
About 300 members of the paramilitary Rapid Action Force have been deployed in Indian-controlled Kashmir since last week to help quell nearly two months of civil unrest that has reportedly killed more than 50 protesters and bystanders.
Dozens of members of the force, armed with automatic rifles and dressed in full riot gear, have used UN-marked blue helmets and shields as they faced off against the protesters in the streets of Srinagar, the region’s main city. While the bulk of their duties consists of marching down streets in a show of strength, they have also taken part in baton charges and fired tear gas into the crowds.
Their use of UN equipment has perplexed many Kashmiris, who wondered why UN troops had taken a side in the conflict and were assisting Indian forces.
‘We’ve already informed the authorities about this problem,’ said an officer at the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to talk to the media. ‘The authorities have promised to solve this situation.’ Prabhakar Tripathi, a spokesman for Indian paramilitary forces in Kashmir, said some soldiers had brought the helmets and shields back with them after finishing tours of duties with various UN peacekeeping missions.
-via Straits Times.