Key trends in South Asia last week include: armed clashes between security forces and domestic rebel groups in Pakistan; continued targeting of political leaders by militants in India; election-related violence in India and Sri Lanka; and continued coronavirus-related violence in India.
In Pakistan, targeted attacks by ethnonationalist militant groups continued last week in Balochistan province. At least 10 security personnel were killed in separate attacks claimed by the Baloch Liberation Front (BLF). The BLF is one of the most active members of Baloch Raaji Aajoi Sangar (BRAS), an alliance of four Baloch militant groups (Diplomat, 16 June 2020). Baloch militant groups have conducted several attacks on security forces since the beginning of the year. Earlier in July, five security personnel were killed in an attack claimed by BRAS militants.
In India, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militants targeted Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) for the second consecutive week. A local leader affiliated with BJP was reportedly abducted by LeT militants. The BJP Bandipora district president was shot dead the previous week. Early last week, LeT released an audio message warning of action against BJP leaders (Hindu, 15 July 2020). The message was released in response to alleged targeting of civilians and family members of militants by the Indian Army in J&K (Asian News Hub, 15 July 2020). Following the attacks, several J&K BJP leaders and activists have left the party (Hindu, 15 July 2020).
Elsewhere in India, violence was reported between the ruling coalition partners in Tripura, the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT), and BJP. Several clashes were reported after IPFT activists attacked a BJP MP while he was attending a party program in Khowai district. Violent events have increased between the coalition partners surrounding differences over key positions for the upcoming Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) elections (Hindu, 9 July 2020). Both parties have denounced their alliance for the TTAADC elections (Hindu, 9 July 2020). The TTAADC is an autonomous district council established to promote self-governance in areas of the state dominated by tribal people (Financial Express, 18 January 2020).
In Sri Lanka, violence was reported during campaigning for next month’s parliamentary elections. In early March, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, using his constitutional powers, dissolved the parliament six months ahead of schedule and called for parliamentary elections on 25 April (Deccan Herald, 3 March 2020). The elections were postponed following the outbreak of the coronavirus. The early election was aimed at securing his party, the Sri Lanka People’s Front (SLPP), a majority in parliament (Al Jazeera, 2 March 2020). Last week, in Northern province, a Tamil National Alliance (TNA) election office was vandalized and supporters of two independent candidates clashed over removal of campaign materials in Central province.
Coronavirus-related violence continued in various states in India, including Manipur, Gujarat, West Bengal, and Uttarakhand. In Manipur, health workers were assaulted by women housed at a quarantine center during the transfer of coronavirus-positive patients between two quarantine centers. In Gujarat, security forces assaulted, injured, and arrested locals for failing to wear masks in public. Violent clashes broke out between groups of people in West Bengal over violations of social distancing measures. In Uttarakhand, two foreign students from Nigeria and Guinea were assaulted and evicted from a college hostel after reportedly leaving the premises without permission.
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