NEW YORK: - A leading human rights group Thursday asked the the Indian government to ensure that its troops and police refrain from using lethal force against violent protesters in Indian occupied Kashmir unless absolutely necessary to protect life. The New York-based Human Rights Watch also called on political parties and groups leading the protests to end their dispute peacefully and do all they can to prevent acts of violence. Ongoing protests in the disputed state since June 2008 have turned increasingly violent, claiming nearly 40 lives, injuring hundreds, and fueling religious hatred, Human Rights Watch noted in a press release. Security forces have used tear gas and opened fire using live ammunition as well as rubber bullets to control protesters. On August 11 and 12, 2008, as violence escalated, Indian security forces opened fire on demonstrators, killing at least 15 people. Human Rights Watch said the Indian security forces should abide by the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms, which call upon law enforcement officials, including members of the armed forces, to apply nonviolent means before resorting to the use of force and only in proportion to the seriousness of the offense. The UN principles allow lethal force only when it is "strictly unavoidable in order to protect life." "With violence escalating, the troubled state of Jammu and Kashmir is again at the brink of catastrophe," said Meenakshi Ganguly, senior Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. "To end this cycle of tragedy, the government should order security forces to act with restraint and all parties should try to settle the dispute peacefully." "Political leaders and civil society in Jammu and Kashmir should seek a mutually agreeable solution to the immediate crisis, so that peace is restored," said Ganguly. "However, unless there is justice for previous crimes, Jammu and Kashmir will remain a tinderbox that can be set aflame by anyone with a vested interest in the conflict."