Last week in South Asia, cross-border violence between Pakistan and India escalated and led to a large number of military and civilian casualties. India and China formulated a disengagement plan to restore peace along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh region. Meanwhile, Indian security forces stepped up operations against Maoist militants along the Telangana-Chhattisgarh state border. The Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) won the state elections in Bihar. While the elections were largely peaceful, some sporadic violence was reported including a small number of attacks on politicians and some rioting. Anti-France protests have continued in Pakistan though have been decreasing in Bangladesh amid protests against Muslim communal attacks on religious minorities.
Escalating cross-border violence was recorded between Indian and Pakistani forces along the Kashmir border, with a dramatic increase in incidents and casualties relative to the week prior. Forty-eight cross-border battles were reported, leading to at least 32 fatalities on both sides of the border, including civilians. The number of clashes is almost double that which was reported the week prior. Security forces targeted civilian areas using heavy artillery and mortars. 2020 is on course to become the deadliest and most violent year for cross-border violence in the region since ACLED coverage began in 20161 ACLED’s coverage of India extends back to 2016, while coverage of Pakistan extends back to 2010. (for more on cross-border violence, see the India section in the mid-year update to ACLED’s special report on 10 conflicts to worry about in 2020). According to Indian officials, the most recent escalation occurred after Indian troops foiled an infiltration attempt from Pakistan in Kupwara district (Reuters, 13 November 2020). Contradicting India, Pakistan’s military issued a statement that the renewed conflict was provoked by indiscriminate firing by the Indian army. Both countries have accused each other of supporting militant organizations that launch attacks on state forces and civilian communities (Reuters, 15 November 2020).
Meanwhile, India and China have reportedly agreed on a disengagement plan at the eastern Ladakh border during the 8th round of Corps Commander-level talks between the two countries (The Eurasian Times, 14 November 2020). The plan involves creating no-patrol zones, withdrawing tanks and artillery, and using drones to verify the disengagement. Clashes along the LAC in May and June this year led to the death of 20 Indian soldiers and at least one Chinese soldier. Since July, both states have taken measures to de-escalate hostilities along the LAC (Al Jazeera, 13 November 2020).
Elsewhere in India, security forces intensified combing operations against Maoist militants along the Telangana-Chhattisgarh border. Three encounters with Maoist rebels in the states of Telangana, Chhattisgarh, and Bihar states resulted in the death of one rebel and the recovery of arms and explosive materials. Police also arrested a Communist Party of India (Maoist) militia commander in Telangana. In addition to increased targeting by security forces, the coronavirus lockdown has disrupted the supply chain of Maoists and weakened their operational capacity.
India’s ruling BJP and its allies won the Bihar state election, securing 125 seats in the 243-member assembly (BBC News, 11 November 2020). Sporadic violence marked the first major election in India since the coronavirus pandemic. The husband of a city president from the BJP women’s wing and a Janata Dal (United) leader were killed in two different incidents by unidentified assailants. A village mob pelted stones at security forces and engaged in vandalism after being prevented from interfering with the polls. In October, a Dalit leader from the chief opposition party Rashtriya Janata Dal was killed by unidentified assailants. Bihar is one of the nine states that account for 84 percent of crimes against members of the Dalit caste (Times of India, 2 October 2020). Although the BJP’s Hindu nationalist base is concentrated in several states of the so-called Hindi heartland, Bihar is the only state where the party has never won elections independently (CNN, 11 November 2020).
Lastly, Muslim groups in Pakistan have continued demonstrations against the French President Emmanuel Macron over his support for the right to caricature the Prophet Muhammad. Islamic organizations, labor groups, and civil society groups organized demonstrations calling for a boycott of French products and the expulsion of the French ambassador from Islamabad. Police arrested more than 150 members of the far-right Islamist party Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) to prevent them from demonstrating. In contrast, anti-France demonstration activity has declined in Bangladesh and has been concentrated solely in the capital city, Dhaka. Instead, human rights organizations have staged demonstrations denouncing communal attacks on minorities, in particular the recent arson of Hindu homes over their owners’ support for Macron. Last week, an armed Muslim group vandalized a church and a grocery store in a village after being evicted from property belonging to ethnic Khasi Christians.
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