Two police personnel were killed this Monday, following a militant attack on their bus in Indian Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar. According to the New York Times, government forces reported that two insurgents had been killed earlier that day, giving reason to believe that this attack may have been made in direct retaliation.
The attack occurred as a result of increasingly violent tensions between the government and Pakistani-backed separatist insurgents in Kashmir – a territory controlled in part by both India and Pakistan, but heavily militarized by the New Delhi government. Recent violence is bringing tensions between residents and the police to a head, leading to protests that reflect a growing anti-India sentiment as the conflict continues to claim police, militant, and civilian lives.
Experts are viewing Monday’s attack as evidence of lingering tensions that have escalated in recent years, but the government has made little effort to manage the issue. The “false narrative of normalcy in Kashmir stands exposed,” former top elected official of Kashmir Mehbooba Mufti tweeted, “yet there has been no course for correction.”
“There has been an assumption that the Indian government would have a perpetual capacity to maintain a security crackdown such that you couldn’t see this kind of violence again,” agrees South Asia expert Daniel Markey.
But protests have begun erupting amongst residents, who have been growing frustrated with the continuous loss of lives to the insurgency. “They are killing people on the streets here every day,” resident Arshid Malik says. “And the world is watching.”
The mounting tension can be largely explained by the actions of the Indian government, which, rather than acknowledging the political roots of the issue, has treated militant forces as a security threat. Now there are two more casualties in the endless tug of war between the Indian government and separatist forces.
Kashmir has been the site of violent rebellion against New Delhi since the 1990’s. The armed insurgency is alleged to be heavily backed by Pakistan, prompting the Indian government, under the rule of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to crack down and militarize the state. Recent tensions were heightened when the Modi government essentially stripped Kashmir of its autonomy and placed the territory under the direct control of New Delhi in 2019, leading many to accuse India of numerous international law violations. In addition to sending in thousands of troops to stamp out militancy in the region, India has taken extreme security measures in the form of internet shutdowns in order to prevent what the Indian government claims could be the spreading of false information. This suffocation of civilian rights and freedoms has turned the heads of organizations such as the Human Rights Watch.
This is not only a deeply political issue, but also a matter of human rights. These two deaths speak to a much deeper issue at hand and should call international attention to the thousands of lives that have been lost and the human rights abuses on both sides of the conflict.
In 2019, German chancellor Angela Merkel stated that Kashmir’s conditions “are unsustainable and must be improved.” Those words still ring true two years later, as there seems to be no end in sight to the violence. To protect the lives and human rights of civilians on both sides of the conflict, more attention should be paid to the Indian government’s seemingly continuous violation of international law. Collective efforts to improve dialogue between the two sides may effectively emphasize a need to respect of human rights and rule of law, and most importantly, may allow both sides to move forward in peace and stability.
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