A Brief History
On February 14, 2019, yet another of the many Valentine’s Day massacres took place, this time in India, leaving 41 people dead and another 35 people wounded. The attack was a suicide bombing of an Indian security forces convoy in the disputed region of Kashmir (more exactly, the Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir, at the village of Lethpora). (See our other Valentine’s Day related articles.)
The Kashmir region, on the border of India and Pakistan, is a disputed area that the 2 countries have fought over ever since the division of India into sovereign countries of Pakistan and India (and now also Bangladesh) when the British finally left the sub-continent after World War II. An estimated 70,000 people have been killed in the region since 1989 in the fighting and terrorist activities that have taken place. It is worth noting that Pakistan is an Islamic country and India is a majority Hindu nation. The reason India was split when the British gave it independence was to allow Muslims their own country so as not to be dominated by the Hindus. A considerable part of the Kashmir conflict is due to Islamic fervor to claim what they see as their rightful ancestral land, creating a definite religious aspect to the conflict. Muslims living on the Indian side of the border have also taken part in anti-Indian activity and even terrorism.
The suicide bombing in 2019 was perpetrated by a 22 year old Islamic extremist named Adil Ahmad Dar, although he also went by the nom de guerre of “Waqas Commando.” His family reported after the incident that he had become radicalized after an incident where Indian police allegedly beat him up. He had also reportedly been arrested at least 6 times, and in each instance released without charges. On the fateful afternoon, Dar drove an explosive filled car into the side of a bus carrying Indian soldiers, vaporizing himself and killing 40 of the men on the bus. An additional 35 Indians were injured. The convoy had been traveling on a national highway and contained about 2500 security troops.
Attacks against Indian security forces, military and government entities are not uncommon in the region, and India often blames the government of Pakistan for complicity in the attacks, an accusation Pakistan steadfastly denies, as they did in this incident. Credit for the suicide bombing was claimed by the militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed based in Pakistan. Apparently, Dar had bicycled off to join that terrorist group in 2018, leaving his family behind.
The investigators estimated the suicide car bomb had been packed with 180 pounds of RDX explosive (a potent modern explosive) and nearly 400 pounds of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil, an often homemade explosive, a favorite of terrorists. (Dar’s ammonium nitrate may have been stolen from a construction site.)
Of course, Indian authorities reacted swiftly, mounting raids on suspected terrorists and engaging in several shootouts over the ensuing days, including bombing raids on Pakistani territory, bringing the region to the brink of war. Pakistan retaliated with air raids against Indian targets, as one would expect. The situation was deescalated by March when Pakistan arrested 44 suspected members of the terrorist group that planned the attack.
The suicide bombing and subsequent hostilities created an uncomfortable situation for the United States, since Pakistan is nominally an ally of the US in the War on Terror in Afghanistan, and the US seeks better relations with India, perhaps now the most populous country on Earth. American aid in anti-terror activities was given to India and Pakistan was encouraged to rein in their terror minded citizens. Most of the countries in the world condemned the attack.
(It must be noted that India and Pakistan are BOTH nuclear armed countries, and an all out war between them has the potential for a nuclear disaster.)
The conflict between India and Pakistan is based on religious differences, although the people and most of their traditions are identical. Similar situations exist in the countries that comprised formerly comprised Yugoslavia, where you have basically the same ethnic people killing each other because of religion. Another example is in Ireland, where Irish are Irish, except Catholics and Protestants have been willing to kill each other. Other countries in Europe have had similar rifts between the Catholic and Protestant sects of Christianity. History is replete with examples of religious inspired warfare (Crusades and the like), and today we do not seem to have put such idiocy behind us. Killing other people, sometimes even torturing and cruelly treating victims to bizarre levels seems out of place within the context of the religion these “devout” people claim to adhere to. Are you as baffled as we are?
Question for students (and subscribers): How can the US help deescalate the Kashmir conflict? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Bose, Sumantra. Kashmir: Roots of Conflict, Paths to Peace. Harvard University Press, 2003.
Schofield, Victoria. Kashmir in Conflict: India, Pakistan and the Unending War. I.B. Tauris, 2010.
The featured image in this article, a photograph by Nizil Shah of a Candle Light March organised in Mehsana, Gujarat, India in wake of w:en:2019 Pulwama attack, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.