Kashmir, already an area of significant unrest due to a decades-long territorial dispute between Pakistan and India, is in the midst of a fresh wave of violence after the killing of militant commander, Burhan Wani, of Kashmir-based political party, Hizbul Mujahideen on 8 July 2016. India and Pakistan both presently control and administer different parts of Kashmir, although both states claim the entirety of it. The majority of the current violent protests are occurring in the India-administered part of Kashmir. The death of Burhan Wani by alleged Indian security forces sparked a new surge of protests by separatist groups seeking an end to Indian rule in the region.
More than 80 persons have died so far in the resulting violence with thousands more injured. The violence has included a recent assault on four villages resulting in the destruction of buildings, vehicles and crops in several villages in the region – Hawoora, Mishpura, Redwani and Khudwani – with citizens reporting that houses, cowsheds and shops have been ransacked by Indian security forces. Normal life has come to a halt after Indian officials imposed a curfew on the region following the death of Burhan Wani. Indian authorities have been carrying out night-time raids and stopping and searching people at roadblocks. Peoples’ livelihoods have been affected with civilians subject to the curfew growing increasingly desperate due to food shortages and the restrictions on their ability to earn money. Local shops and schools have been closed and the public transport system has been disrupted.
In early September several militants attacked an Indian military base, killing 18 soldiers. India retaliated by conducting a number of targeted attacks on alleged terrorist bases along the border of the two states and condemned Pakistan for the “increasing cross border attacks”. India has consequently announced its intention to withdraw from the South Asia Summit scheduled to be held in November 2016. Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Bhutan also subsequently announced that they will also be withdrawing their attendance from the Summit citing Pakistan’s failure to control militant attacks as the primary reason for boycotting the event. The United States also condemned the attack on the Indian military base, urging Pakistan and India to resolve their issues through diplomacy rather than violence.
Meanwhile, India has been criticized by human rights groups for its excessive response to the protests, which has included the use of pellet guns to subdue protesters and placing publishing restrictions on local media. India initially attempted to justify their crowd-control method by claiming that pellet guns are “non–lethal”, despite the hundreds of persons who have since been admitted to hospital since July for irreparable damage to their eyes. Additionally, thousands of civilians have recently defied the curfew to attend the funeral of an 11 year-old boy whose body was found riddled with pellets allegedly shot by Indian security forces. Hundreds of people have also been arrested and imprisoned without trial. Pakistan was quick to add its voice to the criticism of India’s response to protesters, all while vehemently denying any connection to militancy in Kashmir.
With India and Pakistan continuing to hurl accusations at each other and neither refusing to budge from their positions of self-maintained innocence, a peaceful resolution to the conflict in the near future seems unlikely.