Tensions Rise In Kashmir After Suicide Car Bomb, Gun Battles

Feb 19, 2019
Originally published on February 19, 2019 9:48 am
Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Violence has erupted in Kashmir, the Muslim-majority valley in the Himalayas that is split between India and Pakistan. Last week, a suicide car bomb killed some 40 Indian troops, the deadliest such attack in three decades. And there have been gun battles there this week. NPR's Lauren Frayer was reporting in Kashmir just before the violence broke out.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Fierce gun battle in Pulwama. These are dramatic visuals that are coming...

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: Indian troops exchanged fire with militants. They killed a man officials described as a ringleader of the Pakistan-based group that claimed responsibility for last week's suicide car bomb.

(SOUNDBITE OF HORNS)

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Chanting in Hindi).

FRAYER: Military funerals are underway across India for the troops killed in that bombing. They were deployed from all over the country to Kashmir. Some of their funeral processions have morphed into nationalist rallies, with mourners chanting for revenge against Pakistan.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Chanting in Hindi).

FRAYER: There have also been threats against the Kashmiri people themselves. Even though the suicide bomber was trained by Pakistan-based militants, he was actually a young local Kashmiri man. Kashmiris are mostly Muslims, and India has a Hindu majority. There are fears sectarian violence could break out. Police have set up a hotline for Kashmiris to report harassment. Meanwhile, nuclear-armed neighbors India and Pakistan have recalled their envoys from one another's capitals. After another attack three years ago, India launched military strikes into Pakistan. Prime Minister Narendra Modi says this time also all military options are on the table.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRIME MINISTER NARENDRA MODI: (Speaking Hindi).

FRAYER: "To our neighbor Pakistan," Modi said at a rally, "we promise a befitting reply."

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MODI: (Speaking Hindi).

FRAYER: Modi is running for re-election. He's been dogged by disappointing unemployment figures. Now, with violence in Kashmir, Modi is likely to campaign on national security ahead of polls this spring. Lauren Frayer, NPR News, Mumbai.

(SOUNDBITE OF JESSE COOK'S "STEAMPUNK RICKSHAW") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.