Cross-Border Violence Escalates in Kashmir

By Amin Ahmed

2015-07-07
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150707-IN-funeral-620 Syed Salahuddin (right), head of the Kashmiri militant group Hizbul Mujahideen, leads prayers in Rawlakot, in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, for an alleged militant who was slain en route to the Indian-controlled part of the disputed region, June 27, 2015.
AFP

Indian-administered Kashmir is witnessing a sudden escalation of infiltration from the Pakistani side of the border, which has resulted in the killings of 12 alleged militants and two soldiers in a little over a month.

Two militants and a soldier were killed in a six-hour gun battle on Saturday near Torna, a village in Baramulla district along the Line of Control (LoC) that separates the Indian and Pakistani regions of Kashmir.

The bloody exchange was the latest in a series of incidents that has caused fresh tensions between India and Pakistan. The neighbors both have territorial claims to the Himalayan region, and have fought three wars over Kashmir since the partitioning of the Indian subcontinent in 1947.

The army and police in the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir seem divided over what led to the latest spike in cross-border infiltration, reportedly from the Pakistani side. While the army admits there has been a surge of activity in recent weeks, the state police seem to play it down as normal during the summer season.

“There has been an increase in infiltration attempts by militants this year. Five infiltration bids were foiled on the LoC in only two weeks,” Lt. Gen. Subrata Saha, General Officer Commanding (GOC) the Srinagar-based 15 Corps, told the daily Excelsior on June 30.

“More militants have joined around 200 militants who were already ready to infiltrate from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir into the Indian Territory,” he added.

Col. Mullick Chandra, of the 15 Corps, sees the spurt in infiltration bids as a desperate attempt by insurgents to make their presence known during the 59-day Amarnath pilgrimage, which got under way July 2. During the Amarnath season, streams of Hindu pilgrims from across India trek to Kashmir to climb into the mountains and visit a cave temple that houses an ancient shrine to the god Shiva.

“The Army has a robust security grid in place along the LoC to thwart any attempts of infiltration into the Indian Territory,” Col. Chandra told BenarNews.  

State police authorities, however, say the escalation is normal at this time of year.

“Almost every year, infiltration attempts are made by militants during this season,” J&K Inspector-General of Police Syed Javid Mujtaba Gilani told BenarNews.

“Such attempts should not be linked to the ongoing Amarnath pilgrimage. Elaborate security arrangements are in place to ensure the pilgrimage is conducted peacefully,” he added.

Nothing normal about this: observer

Political analysts, on the other hand, see the current escalation as anything but normal. Some call the prevailing situation “grave” and insist that nothing short of initiating a meaningful dialogue between India and Pakistan could de-escalate the tension on the border.  

“The two neighbors must shun their rigid stances and initiate a broad-based dialogue to de-escalate tension at borders and resolve the long-pending Kashmir conflict,” Noor Mohammad Baba, a professor of political science at Kashmir University, told BenarNews.

“Militant groups fighting for the liberation of Kashmir from India have realized that the Narendra Modi government is non-serious in initiating a peace process with Pakistan on the vexed Kashmir issue,” he added, referring to India’s prime minister.

“I reckon such groups have now decided to intensify their fight against Indian rule to force both nations to take serious steps toward resolving the conflict.”

Apart from infiltration bids, Indian and Pakistani soldiers have recently engaged in intermittent shootouts along the border.

On June 22, Pakistani soldiers allegedly violated a ceasefire by shooting at two Indian posts along the border in the Ranbir Singh Pora sector of Jammu district, according to media reports.

And two separate incidents took place this past Sunday.

First, Pakistani troops allegedly breached a ceasefire at the border in the Arnia sector of Jammu district early in the morning by targeting a BSF border outpost, Zee News reported. The Indian army retaliated, triggering a gun battle that lasted for about an hour.

Later, a Border Security Guard was killed when shooting broke out near the LoC in the Nowgam sector of north Kashmir’s Kupwara district. Kashmir Life identified the slain guard as Abhijit Nandi.

Border residents nervous

Following Saturday’s gun battle, an uneasy calm prevailed in Torna village and other areas near the LoC in Baramulla district.

“We want permanent peace along the borders and appeal to the leadership of both countries to hold dialogue to settle the issue amicably,” Majid Khan 32, a trader in Torna, told BenarNews.

“Exchange of fire between armies of two nations near LoC always affects our normal life. Saturday’s gunfight forced us to stay indoors until army called off search operation Monday,” he added.

Altaf Ahmad Khan 42, a farmer from Torna told BenarNews, “The infiltration attempts and gun battles across the LoC have intensified in the past month.”

“Violence can only lead to destruction, and we want an end to the prevailing volatile situation,” he added.

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