By Morgan-Mckay Hoppmann, Senior Analyst, CIB Asia Desk
Analytical Question: What is the state of ethnic tension in the Jammu and Kashmir region? | Date: 05 March 2020
Following a seven month ban of social media, the Indian government has eased Internet restrictions in India’s Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory. We assess, with moderate confidence, that this will result in decreased political stability and increased police activity in the Jammu and Kashmir region, which will likely result in increased ethnic tensions in the region.
Since 1947, India and Pakistan have fought multiple wars over the Jammu and Kashmir region. The stability of this region is critical to the continued peace between these nuclear powers. In 2019, India removed the special autonomous status of the Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir region. To prevent a violent response from the population, the Indian government placed the region under strict communications and military lockdown. Additionally, the Indian government detained Kashmiri politicians Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, eventually booking both leaders under the Public Safety Act (PSA) in the interest of maintaining regional stability. India’s actions in Kashmir, along with the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) passed in December 2019, caused a strain in international relations. This is exemplified in the European Union’s plan to discuss a joint motion to condemn the Indian government’s actions in March 2020.
On March 4, the Home Department of Jammu and Kashmir released an order restricting Internet speed to 2G. As the new order does not include “white-listed” websites or place restrictions on Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) as past orders did, it marks the end of a ban on social media sites that had been in place since August 2019. The current order is active through March 17, unless modified earlier.
The ease of restrictions comes as India is under increased international pressure regarding human rights. On March 2, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights announced plans to file an amicus curiae (friend of the court) with the Indian Supreme Court on the matter of the CAA. Furthermore, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to visit the EU on March 13, immediately prior to the EU’s vote on whether to criticize recent Indian government policies. Thus, India’s choice to ease internet restrictions could be an attempt to relieve international pressure by demonstrating a regard for human rights. However, recent protests in Delhi over the CAA, following US President Donald Trump’s visit to the city, indicate that ethnic tensions in India are still running high. Omar Abdullah recently appealed his detention under the PSA and was denied, while Mehbooba Mufti’s appeal is scheduled for March 18. In the past, both political leaders have been vocal critics of India’s actions in Kashmir on social media. It is possible that Abdullah’s continued detention and Mufti’s upcoming appeal, coupled with the easing of Internet restrictions, could result in organized political protests and heightened ethnic tensions in the Kashmir region. Heightened tensions in the Kashmir region would have a negative impact on India-Pakistan relations and would lessen the chance of a peaceful resolution to the Kashmir conflict, an outcome that the United States desires.
Due to the removal of the social media ban and the political tension created by Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti’s status under the PSA, it can be stated with moderate confidence that political stability in the Kashmir region will decrease in the next month. The factual accuracy of the reports utilized can be assessed with high confidence, since the information was corroborated by multiple news sites, with both pro- and anti-Indian bias, as well as government sources. While political stability in the Kashmir region will likely decrease, it can also be stated with moderate-to-high confidence that the Indian government will attempt to compensate by increasing police activity in the Kashmir region, which will amplify ethnic tensions in the coming months.
“Government Order No: Home -17(TSTS) of 2020.” Government of Jammu and Kashmir Home Department, March 4, 2020.
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“‘He Disturbed Peace’ : J-K Govt Defends PSA Against Omar Abdullah.” Hindustan Times, March 2, 2020.
“‘Humiliated’: Top Kashmir Leaders Charged Under ‘Draconian’ Law.” Aljazeera, February 7, 2020.
Laskar, Rezaul, and Murali Krishnan. “UN Rights Chief to Move SC over CAA, Irks India.” Hindustan Times, March 4, 2020.
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Siddiqui, Danish, and Devjyot Ghoshal. “A Mob out for Blood: India’s Protests Pit Hindus Against Muslims.” Reuters, February 26, 2020.
 “Life in Kashmir Comes to a Grinding Halt Amid India’s Clampdown,” Aljazeera, August 8, 2019.
 “‘Humiliated’: Top Kashmir Leaders Charged Under ‘Draconian’ Law,” Aljazeera, February 7, 2020.
 Suhasini Haidar, “Diplomatic Victory for India: Say Govt Sources as EU Parliament Defers Vote on CAA Motion,” The Hindu, January 30, 2020.
 Haidar, “Diplomatic Victory for India: Say Govt Sources as EU Parliament Defers Vote on CAA Motion.” The Hindu, January 30, 2020.
 Danish Siddiqui and Devjyot Ghoshal, “A Mob out for Blood: India’s Protests Pit Hindus Against Muslims,” Reuters, February 26, 2020.
 “‘He Disturbed Peace’ : J-K Govt Defends PSA Against Omar Abdullah,” Hindustan Times, March 2, 2020.