Key trends in South Asia last week include: a rise in armed clashes between security forces and domestic rebel groups in India and Pakistan; an increase in cross-border armed clashes between India and Pakistan; and violence targeting the Muslim community over fears of coronavirus transmission in India.
In India, reports of armed clashes between security forces and domestic rebel groups increased in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) last week. Five security personnel and five militants affiliated with the Resistance Front (RF) were killed in an encounter. RF is a newly formed group suspected to be a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) (Hindu, 9 April 2020). In a second incident, a senior Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) commander was killed during an exchange of gunfire with the security forces. In J&K’s Anantnag district, Islamic State (IS) militants attacked police personnel, killing one and injuring another. The attack came amidst increasing focus by IS to recruit Indian Muslims in the aftermath of Hindu-Muslim violence over the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA) (Diplomat, 30 March 2020).
Last week, reported cross-border armed clashes also increased between the military forces of Pakistan and India. Ten Pakistani security personnel were reportedly killed during the cross-border exchanges. Indian officials claim that heightened border activity is a design by Pakistani security forces to enable militant infiltration into Indian territories while security resources are stretched due to coronavirus (Al-Jazeera, 9 April 2020).
In Pakistan, 14 suspected Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants and two security personnel were killed during security operations in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. In Balochistan province, a roadside bomb exploded near a Pakistani paramilitary vehicle killing two soldiers and injuring two others. Despite claims by Pakistani security forces that militancy has been largely rooted out, frequent attacks against security personnel have continued in the former TTP strongholds along the Afghanistan border (Gandhara, 12 April 2020).
Across South Asia, continued violent resistance against security forces implementing coronavirus lockdowns was reported. In several states across India, locals attacked and clashed with security personnel enforcing the lockdown. In Madhya Pradesh state, two police personnel were injured when a mob attacked them with knives while they were trying to enforce the lockdown. In Pakistan and Nepal police officers were injured while attempting to prevent large numbers of people from gathering for prayers at mosques. In Bangladesh, four police personnel were injured by Bangladesh Awami League (AL) activists when they attempted to enforce the closure of shops.
India’s Muslim community faced targeted violence over coronavirus fears after Indian authorities linked dozens of COVID-19 cases to a conference organized in Delhi by Tablighi Jamaat, a Muslim missionary group (Time, 3 April 2020). In Jharkhand, a Muslim man died after a mob assaulted him over allegations of deliberately spreading coronavirus among locals. In Haryana and Arunachal Pradesh, several Mosques were vandalized, and members of the Muslim community were assaulted over suspicion of spreading the virus. In the capital, Delhi, a Muslim youth was assaulted over the suspicion that he was responsible for spreading coronavirus.
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