Kashmir Unrest: Civilians Killed And Indian Military Experiences Deadliest Attack In 20 Years

The death toll of Kashmir’s unrest continues to climb. Since July, protests in all corners of the territory have rekindled tensions between civilians and security forces in the Jammu and Kashmir region. The most recent wave of conflict originated in response to civilian reaction to the death of Kashmir military commander Burhan Wani, and unrest has been further fuelled by curfews imposed on the people for such protests.

On July 8th, Jammu and Kashmir police cornered Burhan Wani and two others during Eid festivities, bombing the building in which they were staying. All three militants were killed by either the explosion or attempting to flee. Wani was popular with the youth of Kashmir and regularly engaged with followers through social media accounts, and his funeral was attended by at least 200,000 mourners. He has since become a symbolic figure in the struggle for demilitarization of the Kashmir region.

Since Wani’s death, protests around Kashmir have become increasingly common and deadly. As of mid-September, the civilian death toll exceeds 80, and thousands have been injured. Al Jazeera reported two more deaths of protesters over the course of the last week. This particular conflict sees the widespread use of pellet guns by Indian security forces in an attempt to regulate protesters. This weapon is legally seen as “non-lethal” but has caused the death of at least two people in different incidents since the beginning of the protests. Many protesters have sustained injuries around the eyes, including blindness, and there has been a major shortage of eye medical specialists throughout the territory. The Hindu reports that as of late August at least 3,000 injuries received by civilians during the unrest have been a result of pellet gun use by security forces.

Before dawn on Sunday 18th September, in the city of Uri, Jammu and Kashmir, 17 soldiers of the Indian Army were killed and 30 injured after attackers stormed a military base strategic to the cease-fire Line of Control. Four of the attackers were also killed in the ensuing gun fight, drawn out over six hours. Attackers lobbed grenades and most deaths occurred after sleeping areas caught fire. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned the attacks and India’s Home Affairs Minister Rajnath Singh described the attackers as “highly trained, heavily armed and specially equipped.” Singh also implied Pakistan’s involvement in the incident, stating: “I am deeply disappointed with Pakistan’s continued and direct support to terrorism and terrorist groups.” The BBC reports this attack on Indian security forces as being the most deadly in at least two decades.

The remote, predominantly-Muslim Kashmir region has experienced much political conflict over the course of the last two centuries. Today, both India and Pakistan each claim it wholly as their own territory. There is also a large, home-grown secessionist movement among civilians. The Uri attacks come latest in a sequence of events which indicate that tensions both in politics and among the people are rising, despite international intervention and numerous, partially-effective ceasefires and treaties.