Will Kashmir tensions hurt fresh India-Pakistan peace efforts?
Killing of civilians, six in the past month blamed on government forces, has triggered massive protest demonstrations since last week in Kashmir, the region at the heart of enmity between India and Pakistan.
And the anger has evolved into wider anti-India protests, nearly similar to huge street protests seen in 2008 that embarrassed New Delhi. After a period of relative calm, rebel violence has increased.
The fresh trouble in the Himalayan region comes at a time when India and Pakistan, who claim the region in full but rule in parts and have fought wars over it, have decided to improve strained relations.
The high-level bilateral talks, proposed by India over a year after the terror attacks on Mumbai, coincided with the day when thousands of people rallied across Pakistan to denounce Indian rule in the disputed Himalayan region and to express solidarity with the Kashmiris.
More than 400 people have been injured in pitched street battles between government forces and large groups of rock-pelting Muslim protesters over the past week in Kashmir.
Analysts are pointing to increasing trouble in the region if the government does not find a way to check the rising anger. The growing strife could also harm efforts to reach out to moderate separatists who according to reports were secretly talking to New Delhi to secure peace in Kashmir.
“Human rights violations and dialogue can not go together,” senior separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said.
Noor Ahmad Baba, dean of social sciences at Kashmir University told Reuters recently that India is ignoring the deep-rooted resentment and discontentment in Kashmir.
“If not seriously addressed, the situation may get seriously out of hand today, tomorrow or sometime in the immediate future,” Baba said.
Srinagar has been under siege for the past five days, senior separatist leaders are either jailed or confined to their homes and dozens of activists have been arrested.
Pakistan-based militant groups have also stepped up efforts to infiltrate into the region.
If not checked, will rising tensions in Kashmir hurt fresh efforts to improve relations between India and Pakistan?