On 13 October 2016, a three-day standoff between Pakistani militants and Indian government forces in Indian Administered Kashmir (IAK) drew to a close. The stand-off took place in an Indian government building in Pampore, a small town on the outskirts of the region’s main city, Srinagar. As the Indian forces stormed the building, locals gathered chanting protests against Indian rule in the region. Indian Major-General, Ashok Narula, reported that two Pakistani militants were killed in the stand-off. An Indian soldier, and a police official were also injured. It is believed that the militants were members of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, a Sunni extremist group that is recognised as a terrorist organisation by the United Nations, a number of western nations, India, and Pakistan.
The stand-off marks the continuing escalation of tensions between India and Pakistan-based rebel groups, fighting for independence in the Jammu and Kashmir region.
The Himalayan region of Kashmir is a disputed territory on the border of India and Pakistan. It has been disputed by the two states since they separated in 1947, upon the dissolution of British India. The ongoing dispute is monitored by the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), specifically monitoring the Line of Control (LoC), the border that was established to demarcate IAK and Pakistani Administered Kashmir (PAK), established in 1971 along with a ceasefire agreement.
Over the past 69 years, the disputed region has been a flashpoint of armed conflict. Most notably the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971, and the insurgency that started in 1989 and continues to this day. More recently, tensions have begun to flare, with open conflict breaking out between the armed insurgents and Indian government forces. In February this year, a stand-off in the same compound in Pampore resulted in the death of five soldiers, three militants and one civilian.
On 8 July 2016, Burhan Wani, a popular leader of the Kashmiri resistance, was killed by Indian forces. Subsequently, civilian protests against Indian rule have broken out across the region, resulting in a sweeping military crackdown. Mr. Sartaj Aziz, adviser to the Pakistani Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, claims that the crackdown has resulted in the death of 150 Kashmiris, and the injury of 15,000 more, including women and children. Many of the injured have been left blinded and maimed by the Indian forces’ use of shotgun pellets as crowd control.
On 18 September 2016, four Pakistani militants launched an attack on Indian forces in the town of Uri. The attack killed 18 soldiers and wounded a further 30. It has been described as the deadliest attack against Indian military forces in decades. In response, the Indian military performed a “surgical strike” against militant “launch pads”, sending 200-250 troops across the LoC into PAK.
India has accused the government of Pakistan of supporting and training militants (often declared terrorist groups) in their attacks on Indian security forces.
Mr. Aziz has accused Indian forces of crimes against humanity and genocide against the people of Kashmir, and daily acts of violence against civilians. The United Nations Human Rights Commissioner and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation Independent Human Rights Commission have called for a fact finding mission to be sent to the region. Amnesty International has condemned India for human rights abuses by its forces in Kashmir, and reports that no civil trials over the claims of human rights abuses have taken place, though internal military trials have been conducted.
Al Jazeera reports that an estimated 68,000 people have been killed in the uprising and subsequent military crackdown in Kashmir since 1989.