Deployment of 10,000 fresh troops sparks fear in Indian Kashmir
Tensions in Indian-administered Kashmir rose on Sunday over the weekend deployment of at least 10,000 paramilitary troops to the troubled region despite authorities' assertions the move was routine.
The region has seen a resurgence of hostilities in recent years, while locals are fearful about the loss of special privileges after India's Supreme Court last year began hearing a case challenging a constitutional provision.
Officials said the movement of troops – set to rise to 20,000 – was to relieve exhausted personnel deployed since local civic polls last year and now monitoring an annual Hindu pilgrimage.
"Troops have been working constantly for seven months. Some have to go on leave and some for training outside," Director General of Police Dilbagh Singh told journalists. "We have requisitioned for 200 companies (20,000 troops), more might arrive."
India-Pakistan rivalry: Kashmiris pay a high price
India and Pakistan continue to clash over Kashmir, a volatile Himalayan region that has been experiencing an armed insurgency for nearly three decades. Many Kashmiris are now fed up with both Islamabad and New Delhi. By Shamil Shams
An unprecedented danger? On 27 February , Pakistan's military said that it had shot down two Indian fighter jets over disputed Kashmir. A Pakistani military spokesman said the jets were shot down after they'd entered Pakistani airspace. It is the first time in history that two nuclear-armed powers have conducted air strikes against each other
India drops bombs inside Pakistan: the Pakistani military has released this image to show that Indian warplanes struck inside Pakistani territory for the first time since the countries went to war in 1971. India said the air strike was in response to a recent suicide attack on Indian troops based in Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan said there were no casualties and that its airforce repelled India's aircraft
No military solution: some Indian civil society members believe New Delhi cannot exonerate itself from responsibility by accusing Islamabad of creating unrest in the Kashmir valley. A number of rights organisations are demanding that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government reduce the number of troops in Kashmir and let the people decide their fate
No end to the violence: on 14 February, at least 41 Indian paramilitary police were killed in a suicide bombing near the capital of India-administered Kashmir. The Pakistan-based Jihadi group, Jaish-e-Mohammad, claimed responsibility. The attack, the worst on Indian troops since the insurgency in Kashmir began in 1989, spiked tensions and triggered fears of an armed confrontation between the two nuclear-armed powers
A bitter conflict: since 1989, Muslim insurgents have been fighting Indian forces in the Indian-administered part of Kashmir – a region of 12 million people, about 70 percent of whom are Muslim. India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars since independence in 1947 over Kashmir, which they both claim in full but rule in part
India strikes down a militant rebellion: in October 2016, the Indian military launched an offensive against armed rebels in Kashmir, surrounding at least 20 villages in Shopian district. New Delhi accused Islamabad of backing the militants, who cross over the Pakistani-Indian "Line of Control" and launch attacks on India's paramilitary forces
Death of a Kashmiri separatist: the security situation in the Indian part of Kashmir deteriorated after the killing of Burhan Wani, a young separatist leader, in July 2016. Protests against Indian rule and clashes between separatists and soldiers have claimed hundreds of lives since then
The Uri attack: in September 2016, Islamist militants killed at least 17 Indian soldiers and wounded 30 in India-administered Kashmir. The Indian army said the rebels had infiltrated the Indian part of Kashmir from Pakistan, with initial investigations suggesting that the militants belonged to Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad group, which has been active in Kashmir for over a decade
Rights violations: Indian authorities banned a number of social media websites in Kashmir after video clips showing troops committing grave human rights violations went viral on the Internet. One such video that showed a Kashmiri protester tied to an Indian army jeep – apparently as a human shield – generated outrage on social media
Demilitarisation of Kashmir: those in favour of an independent Kashmir want Pakistan and India to step aside and let the Kashmiri people decide their future. "It is time India and Pakistan announce the timetable for withdrawal of their forces from the portions they control and hold an internationally supervised referendum," said Toqeer Gilani, the president of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front in Pakistani Kashmir
Secession not an option: most Kashmir observers don't see a referendum happening in the near future. They say that while the Indian strategy to deal strictly with militants and separatists in Kashmir has partly worked out, sooner or later New Delhi will have to find a political solution to the crisis. Secession, they say, does not stand a chance
A senior security official, speaking to journalists on condition of anonymity, said the deployment was to guard against possible protests about a decision or event, without giving further details. He added that India's security set-up in Kashmir was "being re-oriented like never before".
Locals told journalists they were worried Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government wanted to set aside a constitutional provision – Article 35A – which would allow Indians from outside the disputed territory to buy land there.
The deployment follows the uproar sparked by U.S. President Donald Trump after he claimed during a meeting with Pakistani PM Imran Khan that Modi asked him to mediate in the Kashmir dispute. India has long insisted the issue can only be resolved bilaterally and strenuously denied Trump's claims.
India and Pakistan have been fighting over Kashmir, a part of which is also controlled by China, for decades.
India's part of Kashmir was brought under New Delhi's direct rule in June 2018 after Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) withdrew support for its local partner and dissolved the elected local government. (AFP)