August 30, 2019

Traveling through at least half a dozen villages in Kashmir in the weeks after India revoked its limited autonomy, "I heard similar accounts from several people in all these villages of night raids, beatings, and torture" by Indian security forces, Sameer Hashmi reports at BBC News. India's army disputed the stories, saying it has "not manhandled any civilians as alleged." Several of the villagers showed Hashmi scars and bruises.

During a nighttime raid, "they beat every part of my body," one Kashmiri man told the BBC. "They kicked us, beat us with sticks, gave us electric shocks, beat us with cables. They hit us on the back of the legs. When we fainted they gave us electric shocks to bring us back. When they hit us with sticks and we screamed, they sealed our mouth with mud. We told them we are innocent. We asked why they were doing this? But they did not listen to us. I told them don't beat us, just shoot us. I was asking God to take me, because the torture was unbearable."

Kashmir was the only Muslim-majority state until Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist government downgraded Kashmir into two territories in early August, revoking the Indian Constitution's Article 370. Since then, tens of thousands of extra Indian security forces have been brought into the already heavily-policed area, rights were limited, protests broke out, and about 3,000 political leaders, businessmen, and other Kashmir residents have been detained, with many moved to prisons outside Kashmir, BBC News reports.

The Indian government says the troop deployment was a pre-emptive move to maintain order. "No specific allegations of this nature have been brought to our notice," army spokesperson Col. Aman Anand told BBC News. "These allegations are likely to have been motivated by inimical elements." Read Shikha Dalmia's analysis of Modi's Kashmir machinations at The Week. Peter Weber

August 17, 2019

Indian authorities on Saturday began lifting restrictions in Kashmir, which has been on lockdown for nearly two weeks, following a decision to revoke the special status of the Muslim-majority region earlier this month.

Landline phone and mobile internet services are reportedly being restored throughout the region in phases, and India announced on Friday that schools and government offices are set to reopen on Monday. Despite the easing restrictions, many residents in Pakistan-administered Kashmir reportedly remain "anxious" and were still unable to contact their relatives in India-administered Kashmir. Asmat Pandith, a Kashmiri student in New Delhi told Al Jazeera that she and her fellow students were under a "mental siege" amid the lockdown that has prevented them from contacting their families. Students said they would only believe the Indian government has actually eased restrictions when they can see tangible results.

Critics have called the blackout an attempt to silence voices in Kashmir, a borderland region which has long been the focal point of tensions between India and Pakistan. Protests continued in the region on Friday, and police reportedly responded with tear gas and pellet-firing shotguns.

Further, the United Nations Security Council on Friday met to discuss Kashmir for the first time in 54 years. Pakistan welcomed the meeting, and the country's ambassador to the U.N., Maleeha Lodhi, considered it an achievement. But India maintains that Kashmir is an internal matter and warned against heeding statements from Pakistan that "masquerade as the will of the international community." Read more at The New York Times and Al Jazeera. Tim O'Donnell

August 5, 2019

Indian Home Secretary Amit Shah said Monday that the federal government had revoked decades-old special laws for the disputed Kashmir region, causing an uproar in parliament. Hours earlier, Delhi had cut off internet and phone services in Kashmir, put some regional politicians under house arrest, banned public gatherings, and closed schools in a security crackdown aimed at stemming violent unrest over the news.

Shah said Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist government had revoked Article 370 of the Indian constitution, which allows Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir limited autonomy and legislative powers and blocks Indians outside the Himalayan state from buying land or holding local government jobs in Kashmir. Monday's presidential order says it will "come into force at once" and will "supersede the Constitution." Modi's government also introduced a law that would divide Jammu and Kashir state into two union territories, splitting off Buddhist-majority Ladakh and placing it under direct rule by Delhi.

Despite the phone and internet blackout, Kashmir's former chief minister Mehbooba Mufi tweeted that revoking Article 370 is "illegal" and "unconstitutional," adding, "Today marks the darkest day in Indian democracy." Two of the three wars India and Pakistan have fought since independence in 1947 have been over Kashmir, a territory both nuclear-armed countries claim as part of their respective countries. Peter Weber

March 2, 2019

Fighting between Pakistan and India in the disputed region of Kashmir resumed on Saturday.

The renewed shelling occurred in the wake of Pakistan's return of a captured Indian pilot on Friday evening, which was meant to be seen as a peace gesture. The two sides engaged each other overnight, and the exchange carried into Saturday morning.

At least six civilians, including two children and their mother whose home was hit by a Pakistani shell, have reportedly been killed on both sides of Kashmir, and several homes have been destroyed. India also reported the deaths of two paramilitary soldiers and two counterinsurgency police officers, while Pakistan's military says two of its soldiers are among the fatalities.

Al Jazeera reports that officials from both countries "used the routine description" for the events, blaming the other side for "unprovoked" attacks and supporting their own troops for retaliating "befittingly."

The two sides have been engaged in on-and-off confrontations since a suicide bombing in Indian-controlled Kashmir killed 40 Indian troops on Feb. 14. Tim O'Donnell

February 27, 2019

In the aftermath of India and Pakistan's skirmishes on the ground and in the air on Tuesday and Wednesday over the long-contested Kashmir region, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said in a television address that he aims to sit down with the Indian government and find a diplomatic solution to the crisis, The Guardian reports.

He appealed to the fact that both country's nuclear arsenals could lead to a catastrophic conclusion, otherwise. "Can we afford miscalculation?," he asked. Pakistani jets launched airstrikes into the Indian-administered part of the contested mountain region, Pakistan's military said Wednesday. India denied the report and said it shot down a Pakistani F-16. The strikes were the first between the neighbors since 1971.

A spokesperson for the Pakistani military, Major General Asif Ghafoor, echoed Khan's sentiment, stating that Pakistan does "not wish to escalate hostilities" and "urged India to engage in dialogue," per Al Jazeera,

Ghafoor also said that Pakistan's strike on six targets in India-administered Kashmir was "not a retaliation in the true sense" but a demonstration of Pakistan's wartime abilities should a larger conflict come to pass.

"We don't want a war," he said.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has yet to respond to Khan, but Modi's initial reaction to the fighting was to vow a "jaw-breaking" retaliation. Tim O'Donnell

February 27, 2019

Pakistan shot down two Indian fighter jets over Pakistan-controlled Kashmir and arrested one of the pilots, after Pakistani jets had launched airstrikes into the Indian-administered part of the contested mountain region, Pakistani military spokesman Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor said Wednesday. The other Indian jet crashed on the Indian side of the Line of Control, Ghafoor said. India denied the report, saying all its pilots and planes are accounted for, BBC News reports, though Indian police said an Indian Air Force plane did crash on the Indian side of the border. India claims it has shot down a Pakistani F-16.

The air battles, the first between the two nuclear-armed neighbors since 1971, follow a day of cross-border shelling and arms fire along the Line of Control, and Indian pre-dawn airstrikes on Tuesday. India says those strikes hit a terrorist training camp for the militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), killing several militants and commanders; Pakistan says the strikes hit nothing and killed nobody. The latest tensions in Kashmir began with a Feb. 14 JeM suicide-bomb attack that killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary police. The U.S., China, and the European Union have urged India and Pakistan to de-escalate the situation and exercise restraint.

India says the ground skirmishes on Tuesday and Wednesday have left five Indian soldiers wounded and five Pakistani military posts destroyed, with casualties. Pakistan says Indian shelling has killed up to six civilians. India and Pakistan have closed civilian airports in the region and stock markets in both countries are down. Peter Weber

February 26, 2019

On Tuesday, Indian fighter jets dropped bombs in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, killing a "very large number" of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) militants, including senior commanders, Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said. "The strike avoided civil casualties," and struck the terrorist group's "biggest training camp" in the Balakot region of Kashmir, on the edge of the part of the divided region that Pakistan controls. Both nuclear-armed nations claim the entire mountainous region and have fought two wars over it; these were the first airstrikes to cross the line of control since the last war, in 1971.

The airstrikes were in retaliation for a Feb. 14 bombing that killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary police in Kashmir; JeM claimed responsibility for that suicide bombing, the deadliest such attack since a Kashmir insurgency broke out in 1989. "Credible intel was received that JeM was planning more suicide attacks in India," Gokhale said. "In the face of imminent danger, a pre-emptive strike became absolutely necessary."

Before India confirmed striking inside Pakistan's part of Kashmir, Pakistani military spokesman Maj. Gen Asif Ghafoor had said Pakistan scrambled jets to intercept the Indian aircraft, and the Indians "released payload in haste." Balakot police chief Saghir Hussain Shah told The Associated Press that based on his team's assessment of the mostly deserted wooded area, "there are no casualties, there are no damages on the ground because of the dropping of the bombs." Peter Weber

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