Key trends in South Asia over the past two weeks include: armed clashes between security forces and domestic rebel groups in India; targeted violence by domestic rebel groups in Pakistan; and violence stemming from coronavirus lockdowns across the region.
In India, security measures and lockdowns to curb the spread of coronavirus were extended for two more weeks. Despite the extension of the lockdown, armed clashes between security forces and rebel groups continued across the country. In Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), 14 fatalities including four security personnel, seven militants and three civilians were recorded in seven different armed clashes between security forces and rebel groups. In Srinagar, the summer capital of J&K, a commander of Kashmir’s largest rebel group, Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM), and his aide were killed in a 12-hour long battle. Following the incident, violent anti-India demonstrations were held in the region. While armed clashes between rebel groups and security personnel are a common occurrence in areas bordering Pakistan, this incident marks the first such incident in Srinagar in two years (Al Jazeera, 19 May 2020). Reports suggest that security forces have used the lockdown to spread their network of sources and to gather actionable intelligence (New India Express, 7 May 2020). In Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Jharkhand, and Maharashtra states, armed clashes between Naxal-Maoist rebels and security personnel continued with 10 fatalities recorded in six different armed clashes.
In Pakistan, the recent resurgence of violence by armed Baloch ethnic groups continued during the past two weeks. In Balochistan province, six military personnel were killed and at least four others were wounded in a roadside bombing. The United Baloch Army (UBA) claimed responsibility for the attack (Gandhara, 19 May 2020). The UBA is a Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) splinter group and is among several other armed Baloch groups battling the state to establish an independent Balochistan (Diplomat, 24 June 2015). In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, at least three people were killed in an attack by suspected Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants.
Over the past two weeks, violent demonstrations and mob violence over coronavirus-related lockdown restrictions were reported in Bangladesh, India, and Nepal. In Bangladesh, readymade garment factory workers clashed with police in Dhaka division demanding unpaid salaries, Eid bonuses, and reinstatement of jobs lost due to the coronavirus lockdown. In several states across India including Gujarat, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, and Bihar, migrant workers continued violent demonstrations and clashed with security forces, demanding they be allowed to travel back to their home states. In Gujarat, around 200 migrant workers attacked police personnel after trains arranged to repatriate them were rescheduled by the local administration (Indian Express, 17 May 2020). In Bihar, hundreds of migrant workers vandalized office property, government vehicles, and attacked police personnel demanding that they be allowed to return home. In Bihar and Assam, people kept in coronavirus quarantine facilities vandalized the facilities and clashed with security personnel, alleging mismanagement by the authorities and demanding better facilities. In Nepal, locals attacked government representatives after authorities attempted to set up coronavirus quarantine facilities in local schools.
In Pakistan and India, frontline health workers battling coronavirus continue to be targeted with violence. In Pakistan, doctors and staff working at hospitals in Sindh, Punjab, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces were assaulted by relatives of patients who had died of coronavirus. In India’s Gujarat state, locals attacked a nurse and prevented her from going to work, fearing that she would spread coronavirus. In Bihar state, quarantined migrant workers attacked a local village head and held a nurse hostage due to poor conditions at the quarantine center. Similar incidents were reported in several states including Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Gujarat.
Elsewhere in India, violent demonstrations were reported in several districts of West Bengal affected by Cyclone Amphan. Residents of Kolkata, Howrah, and North 24 Parganas districts set up roadblocks on expressways and clashed with security personnel demanding immediate restoration of water and power supply in the wake of the cyclone.
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