Indian Gov’t Taking Heat on Kashmir Violence, Anti-Muslim Statements

Pace of killings accelerates . . . 

Hindus are fleeing India’s Muslim-majority state of Jammu & Kashmir after a string of assassinations of Kashmiri Pandits, as the region’s Hindus are known. The latest victims include a teacher, a bank manager, and two migrant workers, bringing the number killed this year to 19. Roughly half of those killings have occurred since May 1. Those responsible for the attacks oppose direct rule by New Delhi, which appoints a lieutenant governor to oversee the region, a change enacted when the federal government unilaterally revoked Jammu & Kashmir’s autonomous status in 2019. Other grievances fuelling the violence include a crackdown on activists and local media and removing Kashmiri Muslims from key administrative and police posts.

Return to a dark past?

For some Kashmiri Pandits, the spike in violence is eerily reminiscent of an anti-India insurgency that erupted in the late 1980s and drove 65,000 Hindus out of the area. In 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) pledged to fulfill previous governments’ promises to help Pandits return through initiatives like job offers and improving the region’s security. However, many Pandits are frustrated with the failure to deliver on these promises, especially regarding their personal safety. Many Kashmiri Muslims suspect that government incentives to lure Hindus back to the region represent a nefarious move to dilute the state’s predominantly Muslim character.

Treatment of Muslims in the spotlight . . .

For years, the Indian government’s response to Muslim dissent in Jammu & Kashmir has been heavy-handed. Prime Minister Modi’s BJP-led government has come under increasingly intense scrutiny for allowing or even allegedly instigating anti-Muslim violence across India. But a recent unrelated incident could have a moderating effect; this week, 13 Muslim-majority countries condemned anti-Islam statements made by two prominent BJP members. In an attempt to contain the diplomatic fallout, the BJP suspended the offending members, neither of whom have shown contrition, and is trying to distance itself from the remarks. But given the past relationship between New Delhi and Kashmiri Muslims, there are reasons to doubt that any softening of the approach to Kashmiri Muslims would be anything other than temporary.