Kashmir: Violence Erupts after Miliant Group Leader Is Killed in Shootout with Indian Army

Last Friday, Burhan Wani, leader of rebel group Hizbul Mujahideen, was killed in a shootout with Indian army forces in Kashmir. Since then, at least twenty more people have been killed and more than 200 injured in clashes between protesters and Indian forces, according to CNN. Though Indian police describe Wani’s death as a success in the campaign against separatist militants, many protesters employed violent tactics against security forces in Indian-administered Kashmir.  Police stations and government buildings have been targeted by protesters following Wani’s death. CNN reported the death of a police officer, who drowned after an angry mob forced his car into a river in Sangam.

Indian government forces have utilized tear gas and fired live rounds in the clashes with protesters, resulting in the large number of casualties reported. BBC News announced that the level of violence has decreased since implementation of a curfew in Srinagar as well as blockage of internet and mobile phone services in some areas, and extra troops have been deployed in order to reestablish some sort of order. The escalation in mobilisation by both sides heightens tension between the Muslim majority in Kashmir and the Indian forces in charge of administering the region.

Burhan Wani was a leader of the separatist movement, actively campaigning on social media for people to stand up against oppression and exposing Indian injustice. On one hand, he is identified as a terrorist by Indian authorities, while on the other hand, he is seen as a martyr by Pakistanis. Violence and unrest spill over and interfere many aspects of governance, citizenship and daily affairs. Indian forces will have to listen to the demands of the people in the region and accept negotiations for a compromise or path forward if authorities wish to resolve the conflict long term.

The recent violence after Wani’s death has hindered a popular Hindu pilgrimage to the Amarnath temple shrine, leaving thousands scattered in the neighbouring region of Jammu, reported BBC News in accordance with Indian media. These stranded pilgrims results in more headaches for Indian forces who need to minimize the effects of the outbursts of violence and maintain some sort of control over the protests. The impediment of the Hindu pilgrimage is a sad and concerning result of the ongoing periodic violence in the region. It shows that despite attempts at resolving disputed Kashmir, the conflict is still well and alive, and Indian and Pakistani officials need to reevaluate their interests in the region and incorporate the desire of the Kashmiris.

Kashmir has been a disputed territory between India and Pakistan for over sixty years, causing two wars between the countries. Since there is a Muslim-majority, many inhabitants support independence from Indian administration or a mergence with Pakistan. Both sides have numerous incentives to claim governance over the region; thus, since confidence and trust between the two nations is non-existent, past negotiations have been unsustainable and have failed time and again. In the future, India and Pakistan will need unanimous international encouragement to build a stable relationship that allows for coexistence and a common understanding that effective diplomacy is the only way to resolve the residual tensions from years of conflict in the region.