Kashmir situation likely to deteriorate in 2021: Report

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By Hilal Mir

Srinagar: Violence along the de-facto border in Kashmir is likely to continue to increase and India and Pakistan are unlikely in the near future to make efforts to resolve the conflict bilaterally, according to a report by the US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data (ACLED) Project.

The grim prediction is based on ACLED’s analysis of the events of 2020, which it called the most violent since 2016 when Kashmir witnessed months-long protests against India triggered by the killing of iconic rebel commander Burhan Wani.

Both countries accused each other of violating the 2003 border cease-fire agreement. India’s Home Ministry said Pakistan violated it 5,133 times in 2020, while Pakistan accused Indian troops of violating the agreement more than 1,600 times. Dozens of soldiers and civilians were killed and scores wounded on the two sides in these firing incidents, which experts say were the highest since the signing of the border agreement in 2003.

While the borders are likely to stay “hot,” the explosive situation inside Kashmir could deteriorate further, said the ACLED report, which lists Kashmir as one of the 10 conflicts to watch for in 2021 alongside others such as Yemen, Myanmar, Ethiopia, and Armenia and Azerbaijan.

The report said there could be a surge in the activity of domestic and foreign militants in Kashmir because of “policy shifts” after Aug. 5, 2019, when India stripped Jammu and Kashmir of its autonomous status and divided it into two centrally ruled territories.

“Though the rise in militancy is attributed to Pakistan-based jihadi groups, disillusionment and anger caused by [India’s move on] Aug. 5 has enabled both domestic and foreign [militant] groups to recruit Kashmiris,” the report said.

Marginalization of Muslims ‘could in turn spur militant activity’

It said another source of a possible spur in militant activity is new citizenship and land laws that allow outsiders to purchase land in Jammu and Kashmir besides claiming residency. Before Aug. 5, only Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist residents of the Muslim-majority region had these rights.

An ongoing exercise aimed at redrawing the local legislative assembly segments will shift the power to the Hindu-majority Jammu region, the report said. The resulting marginalization of Muslims “could in turn spur militant activity in the region,” it said.

A Hindu jeweler who had acquired domicile residency rights was shot dead by militants on Dec. 31 last year, and the son of a Hindu owner of an eatery was shot three times by suspected militants Wednesday in a high-security zone. He survived the attack. In the past 30 years of insurgency, the eatery and several other businesses run by Hindus had never been targeted.

Militant groups have declared any outsider planning to settle in Kashmir as their target. In fact, immediately after the abrogation of autonomy, suspected militants killed as many as 11 outsiders, the majority of them are Indian Muslims.

–AA

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