Five Indian Soldiers Killed In Kashmir Shootout

At last five Indian soldiers and two militants were killed in a series of gun battles in Kashmir on Monday, October 11th. The incident is a result of a violent shootout between suspected rebels and occurred in a mountain pass near the Line of Control in the Himalayan region dividing disputed territory, where there was a search operation in villages near Surankote following intelligence reports of four to five terrorists. This has been the deadliest incident involving Indian security forces in the region this year after a de facto ceasefire between military forces was announced this February. Those injured were transported to a nearby medical facility, but have since succumbed to injuries and passed away. No group has yet claimed responsibility for this incident. 

“One JCO (junior commissioned officer) and four soldiers were killed during a search operation probably by infiltrators… The operation is ongoing,” said Colonel Devender Anand, according to Aljazeera. 

Records say that 113 militants have been killed this year, with the highest number being in July. Furthermore, at least seven civilians were also killed in targeted attacks, mostly being that of religious minorities such as the Sikh and Hindu populations. These previous killings have been claimed by The Resistance Front. The group accused those it targeted of working for “occupier mercenary forces and occupier stooges,” according to Anadolu Agency. These killings then led to a crackdown by Indian authorities. In North Kashmir, Indian security forces also shot dead a suspected member of The Resistance Front, who is believed to have killed a civilian driver, according to the Kashmir Valley’s police chief Vijay Kumar. 

Kashmir is a region located between India and Pakistan, that is claimed by both but fully controlled by neither. The two countries each control parts of the region, resulting in violent conflict that has been ongoing since the 1990s. Indian officials claim that Pakistan supports militancy in the Kashmir region, which is claimed by both countries but is denied by Islamabad. Since the ceasefire, there has been a recent uptick in infiltration by Pakistani militants. 

The killings in Kashmir were especially surprising and tragic, as the area has been in conflict for nearly three decades and a beacon of hope was seen during the de facto ceasefire. Not only are militants and soldiers targeted, but civilians are also being killed if they are suspected of association with political groups. Furthermore, violence is concentrated on religious minorities, which highlights the ethnoreligious intolerance that is highly present in the area.

Kashmir has been under even more tension since India altered the special constitutional status of the states of Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019, so as to split it into two “union territories”: under direct federal control. This closed off, at least for now, the option of negotiation, and Pakistan has responded by fueling violence and breaching the current bilateral ceasefire. This could possibly re-escalate tensions between India and Pakistan. As violence should be condemned and peaceful resolution aimed for instead, renegotiating and peace talks should be the prime focus of both governments, in order to avoid more military and civilian casualties. The “Kashmir Formula,” which was negotiated and almost complete from 2004-2007 should also be revisited.