Last week in South Asia, clashes between security forces and various militant groups took place in India and Pakistan. Islamist and separatist militants increased their activities in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Union Territory in India. Maoist rebels reappeared in Madhya Pradesh state in India and attacked civilians and security forces. Pakistani military forces carried out security operations against Taliban militants in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province in Pakistan. Meanwhile in Balochistan province, a separatist group carried out targeted attacks on security outpost stations. Farmer demonstrations in India have continued, including a nationwide railway blockade leading to the arrests of demonstrators. Finally, the fourth phase of the Bangladeshi municipal elections ended with rival clashes and boycotts.
In India, Islamist militants and separatist groups clashed with security forces and attacked civilians in J&K. Three militants from the Islamist outfit Al-Badr died in an exchange of fire during a Cordon and Search Operation (CASO) in Shopian district. Police arrested an Al-Badr militant while he was trying to plant an IED near a bus stand in Jammu city on the second anniversary of the Pulwama terror attack (Hindustan Times, 14 February 2021). On 14 February 2019, a convoy of security forces was attacked by a Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) suicide bomber in Pulwama, killing 40 soldiers (Hindustan Times, 14 February 2021).
Meanwhile, the separatist militant outfit Muslim Janbaz Force (MJF) critically injured a civilian from the Jammu division in Srinagar city. The group said that it would not allow the new domicile laws to change the demographics of Kashmir (The New Indian Express, 18 February 2021). The laws allow Indian citizens from other states to claim residency and purchase land in J&K, sparking controversy over the potential marginalization of indigenous Kashmiris (for more on the J&K domicile law and militancy, see this latest ACLED report).
In the Red Corridor, Naxal-Maoist rebels have continued their violent activities targeting security forces and civilians, and have resurfaced in Madhya Pradesh state in India. Security forces killed four Communist Party of India (Maoist) militants in Madhya Pradesh state in two encounters. At least two of the rebels came from Chhattisgarh state (Republic World, 14 February 2021). Meanwhile, in Chhattisgarh, rebels killed two villagers in two incidents, suspecting them of being police informers. An IED planted by Maoists exploded and killed a police constable in Jharkhand state. Police sources have revealed a possible shifting of rebel forces from Chhattisgarh to its bordering areas in Madhya Pradesh as a result of increased anti-Naxal operations in Chhattisgarh (Hindustan Times, 9 February 2021). Besides last week’s encounters, Maoists set ablaze vehicles engaged in road construction in Balaghat district in Madhya Pradesh in January.
In KP province in Pakistan, military forces conducted security operations against Taliban militants. Three suspected Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) members, involved in clashes with security forces and targeted attacks, were killed in North Waziristan district. A TTP suicide bomber was killed by detonating his vest during a security operation in Dera Ismail Khan district. Security forces have recently conducted several operations as Taliban militants have increased their presence in the region over the past year (Gandhara, 17 February 2021).
Elsewhere in Pakistan, the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) attacked two Frontier Corps (FC) outposts in Kohlu district in Balochistan province. At least five FC officers were killed, and the outposts were captured. The BLA frequently targets security force stations and development projects (The Balochistan Post, 18 February 2021). Infrastructure and development projects are denounced by Baloch separatists as exploitation of local labor and natural resources (for more on Baloch separatism, see this ACLED piece on rising organized violence in Balochistan). Earlier this month, BLA militants detonated a landmine targeting security forces guarding a road construction project in Kohlu district, killing two people.
Farmer demonstrations against the three recently introduced farm laws have continued across India. The United Farmers Front, the umbrella body of protesting farmer unions, organized a nationwide railway disruption on 18 February to intensify the farmer movement. Farmers fear that the new laws to deregulate the agricultural sector will lead to dominance by big businesses at the expense of smallholders (The Diplomat, 19 February 2021). Last week, police continued arresting and detaining peaceful protesters ahead of and during demonstrations. A climate activist was also arrested for editing and circulating a protest “toolkit” that authorities consider anti-government (Deutsche Welle, 16 February 2021). Earlier, Greta Thunberg had shared the toolkit on Twitter, which also included a petition condemning the “state violence” against the protesters (Deutsche Welle, 4 February 2021).
Lastly, the fourth phase of the municipal elections in Bangladesh was conducted amid reports of sporadic violence and occupancy of voting centers. At least two people affiliated with the ruling Awami League (AL) were killed in political rival and intra-party clashes; about 30 more were injured. Besides clashes between the main rival parties — the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and AL — inter-party clashes were also reported. Supporters of rival candidates from AL clashed in Rangpur, Rajshahi, and Chittagong divisions over taking control of polling centers and disrupting the voting process. Vote-rigging and polling center domination leading to a boycott of the polls were reported in Thakurgaon, Munshiganj, Tangail and Barisal areas, among others (Dhaka Tribune, 14 February 2021). Electoral violence is common in Bangladesh with frequent reports of irregularities and strong political contention (Voice of America News, 5 January 2019). Violent clashes and boycotts were also reported during the previous three stages of the municipal polls.
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