On Monday, top commander of the militant group The Resistance Front and his right-hand deputy died in a shootout in New Delhi, according to Indian police in Kashmir. The Resistance Front is reportedly responsible for dozens of targeted killings across India, according to Reuters. Abbas Sheikh, who was chief of the militarized group, and Saqib Manzoor his deputy, were the two men killed in the shootout with police in the main city of Kashmir, Srinagar. Vijay Kumar, Kashmir police chief, has been following The Resistance Force through many of the targeted killings, which included the murders of prominent lawyers and workers of the ruling class.
Kumar emphasized to Reuters that The Resistance Force is connected directly to the Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Toiba, which has been causing unrest in Kashmir for over 30 years. Since the end of British colonial rule in the region in 1947, both Pakistan and India have claimed full ownership of the area, but rule in parts. Across the decades of uprisings between Pakistan and India, more than 50,000 people have been killed, and accusations continue to fly.
India mostly accuses Pakistan of supporting Muslim militant groups who fight their security forces in the divided region. Pakistan affirms that it only supports “its fellow Muslims in the Himalayan region,” while groups like The Resistance Force carry out successful attacks on those closely connected to the Bharatiya Janata Party, which rules in Kashmir. According to The Hindu e-paper, the police in Kashmir recently released a list of their most wanted criminals, and Sheikh and Manzoor were listed near the top. Sheikh had previously been arrested twice, but upon release rejoined the militant group both times. Kumar confirmed that after receiving critical information from the Indian Security Forces about the whereabouts and movements of the duo, “10 policemen in civvies cordoned off the area” where the shoot-out took place. Radical groups in India have a long history of creating unrest in the region.
Starting in November 2020, The Ministry of Home Affairs approved a research study about the “status of radicalization” and aims to adequately define what radicalization is legally. The study was reported to be “religion-neutral” and will only go off “facts and reported cases,” with the goal being a legal definition, therefore deterring police misuse. The study goes hand-in-hand with another which is being conducted on the actual rehabilitation potential of prisons in India. Al-Qaeda and associated individuals were one of the initial groups to be part of the study and it was pointed out that there were “significant numbers” of participants living in Kerala and Karnataka.
The Indian affiliate Hind Wilayah was reported have between 180-200 active members of al-Qaeda at the time of the information release. The study has been active for almost a year and should be wrapping up in the next few months. Once it has concluded, hopefully Kashmir police forces will have a solid definition of radicalization, with which they can charge people associated with The Resistance Force. The lack of clarity about what is and is not illegal concerning political radicalization has lent its previous leniency in the prisoners’ favor.
Police in any country never want to end a confrontation in gunfire. Now, with the help of the Indian Army and Ministry of Home Affairs, the future will have better outcomes. While in the long run it will help the police do their jobs, the down side to this study is that so many innocent lives are lost in the face of undefined radicalization. As the political climate intensifies in India between The Resistance Force and the Bharatiya Janata Party, those who suffer the most usually have the least information about recent radical moves.
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