Last week in South Asia, militant activity against security forces increased in the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) region of India. Cross-border violence between Pakistan and India decreased, but remained at a high level. Naxal-Maoist rebels launched attacks on civilians in Jharkhand state in India. Lastly, hostilities between the Bru tribe and residents of Tripura state in India led to riots amid the planned settlement of displaced Bru tribal members in the state.
In India, militant activity and reports of militants targeting security forces increased in J&K. Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) militants exchanged fire with the Indian army in Pulwama district. Unidentified militants lobbed grenades targeting police forces in three incidents across the region. At least twelve civilians were injured, though, as one of the grenades missed its intended target. Security forces foiled an attack by JeM and exchanged fire with the group at a toll plaza on Jammu-Srinagar national highway. Four suspected JeM militants were killed and two police officers were injured. A large number of weapons and explosive material was recovered. According to the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), the JeM militants infiltrated India from Pakistan with the aim to disrupt the upcoming District Development Council (DDC) elections (The Economic Times, 19 November 2020). Various political parties, including Bharatiya Janata Party, Shiv Sena, and Dogra Front, staged demonstrations, criticizing Pakistan for attempting to disrupt the peace in J&K. The Indian government has accused Pakistan of supporting cross-border militancy in Kashmir (International Crisis Group, 5 August 2020).
Cross-border violence between Pakistani and Indian forces along the Kashmir border has remained high, despite a decrease from the previous week. Twenty-one cross-border clashes were recorded, during which four Pakistani soldiers, one Indian soldier, and two Indian civilians were killed. Indian Border Security forces spotted two drones reportedly coming from the Pakistan side of the international border in the Samba sector of J&K and fired at them. Similarly to the previous week, both countries have accused each other of committing unprovoked ceasefire violations across the Line of Control (LoC) (Al Jazeera, 16 November 2020).
Elsewhere in India, Maoist rebels were active in Jharkhand state, where they targeted civilians. In Lohardaga district, Maoists killed a construction company employee who refused to pay extortion money. Another civilian was killed after being accused of being a police informer. In another incident, rebels killed a coal trader during a religious ceremony, triggering a stampede. Further, Maoists assaulted construction workers and set equipment on fire at a bridge construction site in Jharkhand. Maoists also put up posters in Khunti and Saraikela districts, warning the local population against cooperation with security forces and refusal to pay extortion ‘levies’ (The Telegraph India, 21 November 2020). As the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted their supply links, Naxal-Maoist rebels have focused on targeting civilians in remote areas to acquire resources and curb cooperation with police.
Lastly, in India, tensions between Bru tribal migrants and residents of Tripura state flared up, as migrants were awarded government assistance to settle in the state. After ethnic clashes in Mizoram state in 1997, over 30,000 Bru refugees fled to Tripura. In January 2020, an agreement was signed to permanently settle Bru migrants in Tripura state (Indian Express, 17 January 2020). Last week, Bengali and Mizo people in Tripura staged demonstrations and indefinite strikes, fearing that the resettlement would cause a social imbalance in their areas (New Indian Express, 22 November 2020). They also demanded compensation for non-tribal families allegedly evicted to set up camps for the displaced Brus (The Hindu, 21 November 2020). Bru migrants attacked 75 Bengali families and vandalized their homes in Tripura state, which led to further communal attacks and demonstrations in at least 20 locations. Tripura police opened fire during one such demonstration, leading to the death of one demonstrator and one fire service official and injuring at least 20 others.
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