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Manipur in north east remained volatile, authorities responded to communal clashes in Haryana state in north with home demolitions, and govt continued talks with China on disputed border.
Ethnic violence in Manipur showed little sign of abating. In Bishnupur district, gunfight between Kuki and Meitei communities 5 Aug killed two Kuki village guards, while assailants same day killed three Meitei men in their sleep; Manipur police, dominated by Meitei, 5 Aug registered case against federal security force Assam Rifles for allegedly helping Kuki militants escape from village where three dead individuals were found. In Ukhrul district, Meitei militants 18 Aug allegedly shot dead three Kuki men guarding village. Border security forces 18 Aug lodged protest with Manipur governor over “blockade on movement of troops” by locals, “mostly women”; amid state-wide insecurity, rule of law has broken down and state machinery seemed to have vanished. Gunmen 29 Aug fired at farmers on Bishnupur-Churachandpur border, killing two. The Wire 11 Aug reported violence erupted in May just as central govt was finalising agreement with Kuki militant groups to create autonomous territorial council within state. United Naga Council 21 August accused Kukis of “distortion of Naga history” and objected to separatist memorandum recently authored by 10 Kuki members of Manipur's legislative assembly sent to PM Modi that included reference to Naga-dominated districts.
Authorities demolished scores of homes following deadly clashes in Haryana. Clashes between Hindus and Muslims 31 July erupted in Nuh town, Haryana state (north), after local Muslims opposed procession by right-wing Hindu groups, killing six and resulting in large-scale property destruction; state authorities in subsequent days demolished more than 300 Muslim homes/businesses and arrested 150 Muslims. In rare criticism of demolition, Punjab and Haryana High Court questioned if “an exercise of ethnic cleansing is being conducted by the state”.
Talks with China on disputed border made little progress. Indian and Chinese commanders 13-14 Aug met in eastern Ladakh for 19th round of talks; joint statement described “positive, constructive and in-depth discussion”, although situation remained unchanged. On BRICS summit sidelines, PM Modi 24 Aug raised concerns with China’s President Xi about border.
Manipur state in far north east remained restive amid mounting evidence of widespread sexual violence, while tensions with China persisted over disputed Himalayan border.
Evidence of widespread sexual violence in Manipur sparked national outrage. Video 19 July went viral showing mob of Meitei men parading and sexually assaulting two naked Kuki women on 4 May – one day after ethnic clashes erupted; families of assaulted women said they had filed case in May but no action had been taken. Internet shutdown had prevented evidence from surfacing but Manipur’s chief minister 20 July said there were “hundreds of such cases” of sexual violence. Responding to shocking video, PM Modi 20 July finally addressed situation in Manipur but veered into vague political rhetoric. Meanwhile, region remained restive: Meitei men 6 July shot dead elderly Kuki woman, while radical Meitei outfit Arambai Tenggol 7 July allegedly killed and mutilated woman from Maring Naga community; following latter’s killing, police arrested nine Meitei men, likely to prevent Naga tribes – which have largely remained on sidelines of unrest – from becoming involved.
Relations with China remained fraught amid high-level meeting. In third meeting since March, FM S. Jaishankar 14 July met Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on sidelines of East Asia Summit in Indonesia’s capital Jakarta; Jaishankar called for troop disengagement along two remaining friction points on Line of Actual Control, while Wang Yi hoped to find solution “acceptable to both sides”; two sides agreed to hold military commander talks soon. Meanwhile, councillor from Ladakh’s Chushul area 10 July alleged Chinese troops had erected four tents in eastern Ladakh’s “buffer zone” and 12 July removed them following Indian army’s objections.
India boosted defence ties with France and U.S. PM Modi 13-14 July visited France and finalised several arms deals, including purchase of 26 Rafale Marine fighter jets. U.S. 20 July said it was working with India on co-producing advanced weaponry to address China’s “coercion and harassment”.
Violence and signs of instability continued in Manipur state after deadly escalation in May, while Maoist violence in centre and tensions with China persisted.
Manipur state remained restive. Following ethnic violence that erupted in Manipur state bordering Myanmar in north east in May – which killed at least 98 people, injured over 300 and displaced some 37,000 – insecurity, violence and instability continued across region, albeit at reduced intensity. Notably, improvised explosive device in Bishnupur district 22 June injured three people, while unknown gunmen same day injured two soldiers in Imphal West district. Security forces 23 June intercepted group of militants who fired automatic weapons in Imphal East district. Police 24 June said arsonists torched private property of Manipur minister in Imphal East district and previous day fired tear gas to prevent mob from setting ablaze property in same district belonging to another minister. Army 26 June said women activists accompanying armed rioters were blocking routes used by forces. Shooting 29 June killed two on outskirts of state capital Imphal. Several local organisations called on federal govt to dismiss regional govt, which is run by ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, and impose direct rule. Amid opposition criticism of state and local govt’s handling of crisis, Congress party Rahul Gandhi 29 June commenced two-day visit to region.
Maoist violence persisted. In Chhattisgarh state (centre), security forces 12 June killed Maoist woman in Kanker district; suspected Maoists 20 June killed policeman on leave in Bijapur district, taking Maoist-related police casualties in state to 19 in 2023.
Border crisis continued with China. FM S. Jaishankar 8 June said India and China “are deploying very close to each other, and this proximity can escalate tensions towards violence, as we witnessed in Galwan”.
PM Narendra Modi visited U.S. Modi 21 June commenced three-day state visit to U.S. which notably produced memorandum on joint production of fighter jet engines for Indian aircraft; U.S. and India jointly called on Pakistan “to ensure that no territory under its control is used for launching terrorist attacks”; Pakistan called remarks “unwarranted, one-sided and misleading”. White House 26 June criticised online harassment campaign against U.S. reporter who asked Modi about govt’s human rights record at joint press conference with President Biden.
Ethnic clashes in north east killed scores and displaced tens of thousands, stoking dormant separatist insurgency.
Ethnic violence erupted in Manipur, killing at least 80. In Manipur state bordering Myanmar in India’s north east, thousands of members of Kuki-Zomi tribe 3 May protested in Churachandpur district against possible extension of their state-recognised identity-linked benefits to ethnic majority Hindu Meitei community, which demands tribal status in part to acquire land in hills populated by Kuki-Zomi tribes. Violence broke out between Kuki and Meitei people, which killed at least 80, displaced 35,000 (including hundreds that fled into Myanmar) and destroyed thousands of homes, properties and churches; unrest prompted govt to deploy thousands of troops. Fresh rounds of rioting and arson 21 May erupted, with govt extending internet ban until 26 May. In worrying sign, Kuki insurgent groups – which signed ceasefire agreement with govt in 2008 – demanded separate administrative entity within India, amid uptick in militant violence: suspected militants 24 May shot dead resident in Bishnupur district; clashes late month continued between security forces and militants amid reports of several civilian deaths and claims from Manipur’s chief minister that security forces had killed some 40 Kuki militants.
India-China relations remained tense amid G20 boycott. China 23 May boycotted G20 working group meeting on tourism hosted by govt in Kashmir’s summer capital Srinagar, citing opposition to “holding any kind of G20 meetings in disputed territory” (see India-Pakistan). Indian FM S. Jaishankar 27 May stated India faced “very complicated challenge” from China, particularly in border regions.
Maoist violence persisted. In Chhattisgarh state (centre), Maoists 21 May shot and injured two security forces personnel during security operation in Dantewada district. In capital New Delhi, security forces same day arrested head of People’s Liberation Front of India, Maoist outfit active in Jharkhand state (east). In Telangana state (south), security forces 22 May arrested five Maoist supporters and five Maoist militia members in Kothagudem district.
In other important developments. Ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) 13 May lost election in Karnataka state (south) to opposition Congress party, boosting latter’s confidence ahead of national elections in 2024. Delhi High Court 22 May issued summons to BBC in defamation case for documentary made on PM Modi.
Tensions with China remained elevated over border dispute, while Maoists conducted deadly attack in centre.
Border dispute with China remained prominent as Beijing named disputed areas. China’s civil affairs ministry 2 April issued list of “standardised” names for 11 locations in areas claimed and administered by India as part of Arunachal Pradesh state (north east), marking Beijing’s third attempt since 2017 to rename places under Indian administration and control; govt 4 April rejected move “outright”. Home Minister Amit Shah 10 April visited Arunachal Pradesh to launch $585mn development scheme to bolster security of disputed border, in response to Chinese initiatives to develop villages along Line of Actual Control (LAC). After meeting Indian counterpart in New Delhi, Chinese defence minister 27 April remarked border was “stable overall”, while Indian statement said Beijing had eroded “entire basis” of relations.
Maoist violence continued in centre. In Chhattisgarh state (centre), Maoists 18 April attacked Legislative Assembly member in Bijapur district, who escaped unhurt; earlier same day, security forces killed Maoist and captured two during operation in Bijapur forests. Maoist IED 26 April killed ten security forces personnel and one civilian in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district. In Jharkhand state (east), Maoists declared 14-15 April shutdown after security forces killed five Maoists in Chatra district 3 April. Police 18 April arrested member of pro-Maoist organisation People’s Liberation Front of India from Jharkhand.
In other important developments. At 17 April India-Russia business dialogue in capital New Delhi and amid bilateral free trade agreement talks, FM S. Jaishankar said relations with Russia remained steady and suggested ties could expand further, reiterating that “we share a commitment to a multi-polar world” and “multi-polar Asia”.
Govt discussed disputed Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China, authorities arrested over 100 Sikhs in search for separatist leader, and Maoist violence continued.
Govt discussed LAC dispute with China on sidelines of G20. FM S. Jaishankar 2 March held bilateral talks with Chinese counterpart Qin Gang at G20 gathering in capital New Delhi; following meeting, S. Jaishankar said talks “focused on addressing current challenges […] especially peace and tranquillity in the border areas”, while China said both sides should “work for the regular management of border areas at an early date.” S. Jaishankar 18 March said situation at disputed border remains “very fragile”. Indian army chief Gen. Manoj Pande 27 March said Chinese transgressions along LAC remain “potential trigger” for escalation.
Govt launched major security operations against Sikh separatist leader. Security forces 18 March deployed thousands of paramilitary personnel to Punjab state (north) as part of search operation to arrest leader of outlawed separatist Khalistan movement, Amritpal Singh, who since 2022 has revived calls to establish independent state for Sikhs; police accuse Singh of attempted murder and creating discord in Punjab. Authorities 18-22 March blocked internet access state-wide and arrested around 154 alleged Singh supporters.
Maoist violence persisted in centre and east. In Odisha state (east), Maoists 17 March killed man in Nabarangpur district. In Chhattisgarh state (centre), Maoists 19 March set ablaze around 14 construction vehicles in Kanker district; security forces 21 March killed one Maoist in clashes in Bijapur district; explosive device 27 March killed army officer in Bijapur district; Maoists 28 March killed two villagers in Narayanpur and Sukma districts.
In other important developments. Manipur state (north east) govt 10 March withdrew from 2008 ceasefire agreement with two militant outfits – Kuki National Army and Zoumi Revolutionary Front – citing recent protests and violence. Govt hosted top leaders from Germany, Italy, Australia, Japan and U.S. during month. Court in Gujarat state 23 March sentenced opposition Congress party’s leader Rahul Gandhi to two years in prison for alleged defamation; hundreds of Congress party supporters 27 March took to streets in capital New Delhi to protest ruling.
Govt bolstered border presence as it held talks with China on disputed Line of Actual Control (LAC), while Maoist violence continued.
Govt shored up presence along border and continued talks with China. Amid border dispute with China, govt 15 Feb mandated seven new battalions of paramilitary Indo-Tibetan Border Police to guard full length of 3,488km India-China border. Govt same day approved construction of Shinku La tunnel to boost connectivity between Ladakh region (location of LAC) and neighbouring Himachal Pradesh state, and allocated $580mn to boost development and tourism in villages along disputed border. Govt and Chinese officials 22 Feb held bilateral consultation mechanism meeting in Chinese capital Beijing, discussing disengagement on remaining friction points along LAC and pledging to “continue discussions through diplomatic and military channels”.
Maoist violence continued in centre and south east. In Chhattisgarh state (centre), suspected Maoists 5 Feb killed tribal leader and member of ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Bijapur district; 20 Feb killed police constable in Bijapur district and two policemen in Rajnandgaon district; 25 Feb killed three security personnel in clashes in Sukma district. In Andhra Pradesh state (south east), security forces 20 Feb arrested two Maoists in Alluri Sitaramaraju district and 22 Feb arrested local Maoist leader during clashes near border with Odisha state.
In other important developments. Tax authorities 14 Feb raided news channel BBC’s offices in New Delhi and Mumbai, in apparent retaliation for broadcasting in Jan documentary examining PM Modi’s rise and role during 2002 Gujarat anti-Muslim riot. Bajrang Dal – Hindu nationalist militant group with ties to BJP – 15 Feb allegedly kidnapped two Muslims suspected of cow smuggling in Rajasthan state’s (north west) Bharatpur district; police next day found victims’ burned bodies in neighbouring Haryana state. Meanwhile, hundreds of residents from Ladakh region – which govt split from Jammu and Kashmir state and turned into separate union territory in 2019 – 15 Feb held protest in capital New Delhi, demanding statehood and constitutional safeguards.
China’s activities along disputed Line of Actual Control (LAC) continued to raise concerns in Delhi, while Maoist violence persisted in east.
Disputed border continued to fuel tensions with China. Indian army chief Gen. Manoj Pande 12 Jan said that situation along LAC is “stable yet unpredictable” and noted that China “slightly” increased its presence along border, but Indian troops are prepared to deal with any “contingency”. Chinese President Xi Jinping 18 Jan reportedly held rare video conversation with Chinese soldiers stationed along LAC in which he reportedly ordered them to “remain alert and be ready for combat”, which fuelled concerns in India. Satellite images posted 19 Jan showing China constructing dam on Mabja Zangbo/Brahmaputra River near LAC raised fears in India over China’s future control of water. Meanwhile, U.S. Assistant Sec State Donald Lu visiting India 14 Jan said China has not taken “good faith steps” to resolve LAC issue and “U.S. will continue to stand with India”; China next day criticised remarks.
Maoist violence continued in east. In Andhra Pradesh state (east), Maoists 4 Jan killed tribal man suspected of working with police in Alluri Sitarama Raju district. In Jharkhand state (east), security forces 23 Jan killed local commander of Maoists’ splinter group People’s Liberation Front of India during clashes in Ranchi district; improvised explosive device 24 Jan injured boy in West Singbhum district; security forces 28 Jan killed one Maoist during clashes in Chatra district.
In other important developments. News channel BBC 17 Jan broadcast documentary in UK examining role of PM Modi, then-Gujarat’s chief minister, during 2002 Gujarat anti-Muslim riots; govt 19 Jan slammed documentary as “propaganda” betraying “colonial mindset” and banned YouTube and Twitter from airing documentary’s clips in India.
Indian and Chinese soldiers fought hand-to-hand along disputed Line of Actual Control (LAC) in first clash in two-and-a-half years, injuring dozens.
Scuffle broke out between Indian and Chinese troops along LAC. In first violent incident since deadly Galwan Valley clash in June 2020, Indian and Chinese soldiers 9 Dec violently confronted each other along LAC in Tawang sector of Arunachal Pradesh state (north east), leaving around 30 Indian and unknown number of Chinese soldiers with minor injuries; both sides reportedly disengaged immediately and local commanders 11 Dec met to discuss incident. Govt 13 Dec said that Indian soldiers prevented Chinese troops from crossing into Indian territory to “unilaterally change the status quo”, while China claimed that Indian soldiers “illegally” crossed LAC and “blocked” Chinese routine patrol. Clash prompted uproar in parliament: opposition parties 14 Dec walked out of both houses after chairpersons refused to discuss situation on LAC and 20 Dec accused govt of “legitimising Chinese aggression” – marking first major public criticism of PM Modi’s handling of border crisis since June 2020. National Congress party 21 Dec staged opposition protest to demand discussion on LAC dispute. FM S. Jaishankar 30 Dec said relations with China are “not normal” and “[India] will never agree to any attempt to change the [LAC] unilaterally”.
Maoist violence continued in east and centre. In Jharkhand state (east), Maoists 1 Dec injured five security personnel in clashes in West Singhbhum district; 12 Dec set two construction vehicles on fire in Chatra district. In Odisha state (east), security forces 6 Dec killed two Maoist cadres in Kandhamal district. In Chhattisgarh state (centre), security forces 20 Dec killed one Maoist in Bijapur district.
Govt resisted calls to cease imports of Russian oil. During German FM Annalena Baerbock’s visit 5 Dec, S. Jaishankar, when asked about India’s imports of Russian oil, stressed that European countries prioritised energy needs and continued importing Russian oil in first months of Ukraine war, thus cannot “ask India to do something else”. PM Modi 16 Dec reportedly urged “dialogue and diplomacy” in phone call with President Putin.
Govt and China made no progress on resolving remaining friction points along disputed Line of Actual Control (LAC), while Maoists continued violent attacks in centre and east.
LAC remained point of contention with China. Indian Army Chief Gen. Manoj Pande 12 Nov said situation in eastern Ladakh along LAC was “stable but unpredictable” as two out of seven friction points are yet to be resolved, and noted that China had not significantly reduced its troops and continued “unabated” infrastructure development; local media mid-month cited Indian defence sources who said India had increased “constructions in forward areas along LAC”. In first public exchange since deadly Galwan Valley clash in June 2020, India’s PM Narendra Modi and China’s President Xi Jinping 15 Nov greeted each other on sidelines of G20 summit.
Maoist violence continued in centre and east. In Telangana state (centre), Maoists 9 Nov killed tribal man suspected of working with police in Mulugu district. In Odisha state (east), Maoists 10 Nov killed youth suspected of being police informer in Kandhama district; security forces 11 Nov killed two Maoists in Koraput district. In Jharkhand state (east), security forces 21 Nov killed three Maoists in Latehar district, where Maoists 22 Nov set ablaze dozens vehicles at railway construction site. In Chhattisgarh state (centre), security forces 26 Nov killed four Maoists during clashes in Bijapur district. In statement ahead of its 22nd anniversary on 2 Dec, People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army – military wing of outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist) – mid-month said 132 members were killed in security operations countrywide since Dec 2021 and claimed it had staged 1,300 attacks that killed 429 security personnel.
Improvised bomb exploded in south west. Low-intensity pressure-cooker bomb blast 19 Nov critically injured two, including perpetrator, in Mangaluru city, Karnataka state (south west); police said attacker was inspired by Islamic State ideology.
Govt and China continued talks on disputed Line of Actual Control (LAC), while security forces targeted militant outfits in north east amid ongoing Maoist violence.
China and India pledged further talks on disputed LAC. In first meeting of bilateral mechanism on border affairs since May, Chinese and Indian delegations 14 Oct failed to reach agreement on remaining friction points along LAC but pledged to “continue discussions through diplomatic and military channels”. Meanwhile, one day after abstaining from draft resolution on China’s Xinjiang province in UN Human Rights Council, Indian foreign ministry 7 Oct made first public comments on human rights situation in China’s Xinjiang region, saying “the human rights of the people of Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region should be respected and guaranteed”. China 18-19 Oct blocked fourth joint U.S.-India bid to designate individuals accused of procuring funds and recruiting for Pakistan-based anti-India jihadist groups on UN Security Council’s 1267 terror list.
Police targeted militant leaders in north east. In Assam state, police 5 Oct arrested seven cadres of militant organisation Dimasa National Liberation Tigers, claiming it had “neutralised” group, which reportedly formed last month after splintering from other militant outfits in Dima Hasao and Karbi Anglong districts.
Maoist violence continued in centre and east. In Chhattisgarh state (centre), Maoists 17 Oct killed two people in Bijapur district and set four vehicles on fire at mine in Kanker district; 26 Oct killed farmer in Mohla-Manpur-Ambagarh Chowki district. Security forces 31 Oct killed two Maoists in Chhattisgarh’s Kanker district. In Jharkhand state (east), Maoists 21 Oct shot three people working at railway construction site in Latehar district. In Orissa state (east), Maoists 24 Oct killed youth suspected of working with police in Kandhamal district.
In other important developments. Govt continued to walk diplomatic tightrope on Ukraine: speaking with Ukrainian President, Indian PM Narendra Modi 4 Oct said “there can be no military solution to the conflict”, while India’s FM S. Jaishankar 10 Oct underscored New Delhi’s long-standing relationship with Russia had “certainly served [its] interests well”.
India and China agreed partial disengagement along disputed Line of Actual Control (LAC), signalling progress in overcoming months-long stalemate.Govt and Beijing announced disengagement from border friction point. Following 16th round of commander-level talks, sides 8 Sept announced their armies began to disengage by few kilometres from Patrolling Point-15 in Gogra-Hot Springs area of Eastern Ladakh, aiming to creating buffer zone in area disputed since May 2020; 50,000 personnel on both sides would remain in area. China welcomed deal, saying “beginning of disengagement is a positive development”, but reiterated: “We don’t accept the so-called status quo created by India’s illegal crossing of the LAC”; agreeing disengagement at remaining friction points will remain tough challenge.Govt signed treaty with eight armed groups in north east. Govt and Assam state authorities 15 Sept signed agreement with eight armed tribal groups in Assam aimed at mainstreaming groups and affording them political and economic rights; home ministry said all eight groups had agreed to abandon armed violence. Union Home Minister Amit Shah 15 Sept said that it was govt’s intention to reconcile with all armed insurgent groups in region before 2024, when national elections are due. Earlier, National Investigation Agency 2 Sept conducted searches in 16 locations in Assam state (north east) and militant training in camps based across border in Myanmar in connection with recruitment by militant outfit United Liberation Front of Asom.Maoist violence continued. Security forces 2 Sept killed two alleged Maoists in Seraikela-Kharsawan district, Jharkhand state (east); 8 Sept arrested two alleged Maoists in Telangana state (centre), discovering explosive material and Maoist literature. Around 700 Maoist sympathisers, including 300 militia, 18 Sept surrendered in Malkangiri district, Orissa state (east).In important international developments. While addressing UN Security Council, FM S. Jaishankar 22 Sept said: “The trajectory of the Ukraine conflict is a matter of profound concern for the entire international community”, signalling veiled criticism of Russia for first time.
Relations with China remained tense over military activity on unofficial border, while separatist groups in north east conducted sporadic attacks on security forces. During routine talks on confidence-building measures in eastern Ladakh, govt and China 4 Aug discussed measures to prevent violation of each other’s airspace; India complained that Chinese fighter jets came very close to Line of Actual Control (undemarcated de facto border between countries) and violated 10km buffer zone during 24-25 June annual exercises, prompting Indian Air Force to scramble its fighter jets. FM S. Jaishankar 18 Aug said: “At the moment [the India-China] relationship is going through an extremely difficult phase after what China did at the border”. Meanwhile, in Assam state (north east), authorities 3 Aug demolished madrasa in Morigaon district that was being run by mufti with alleged links to Ansarul Islam, banned Bangladesh-based militant outfit. In Arunachal Pradesh state (north east), militants allegedly belonging to armed separatist groups United Liberation Front of Asom (Independent) and Yung Aung faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang) 9 Aug fired shots from across Myanmar border and injured one security forces personnel. In Tripura state (north east), militants of armed separatist group National Liberation Front of Tripura 18 Aug ambushed patrol party of security forces and killed one security forces personnel on India-Bangladesh border. National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) 2 Aug observed 25 years since signing “Indo-Naga” ceasefire agreement; deadlock persists between govt and group over issues of separate flag and constitution, as group alleges that New Delhi reneged on Framework Agreement signed in Aug 2015.
Govt and China continued diplomatic and military talks to resolve border standoff in Eastern Ladakh without breakthrough. FM S. Jaishankar and Chinese FM Wang Yi 7 July met on sidelines of G20 FMs meeting in Bali, Indonesia, and held hour-long discussion; Delhi said Jaishankar “called for an early resolution of all the outstanding issues along the [Line of Actual Control (LAC)] in Eastern Ladakh” and “reiterated the need to sustain the momentum to complete disengagement from all the remaining areas”. Military officials and Chinese counterparts 17 July held 16th round of corps commander-level meetings at Chushul-Moldo border meeting point on Indian side in Ladakh aimed at ending standoff in Eastern Ladakh; joint statement next day indicated no breakthrough, mentioning “two sides continued discussions for the resolution of the relevant issues along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Western Sector”. Beijing 7 July protested PM Modi’s birthday wishes for Dalai Lama previous day, urging Delhi to “stop using Tibet-related issues to interfere in China’s internal affairs”. Meanwhile, regional court in Chhattisgarh state (east) 16 July acquitted 121 tribals accused of assisting Maoists in April 2017 killing of 25 security forces personnel for lack of evidence. Separatist militant group Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak Muivah) 25 July said that peace talks with govt have stalled because of objections raised by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, ideological parent of ruling Bhartiya Janata Party, against demand for separate flag and constitution.
Anti-Islam remarks by ruling party officials sparked widespread unrest and international condemnation, while govt’s new military recruitment scheme triggered backlash across country. After ruling party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s national spokesperson Nupur Sharma and Dehli-based party leader Naveen Kumar Jindal made derogatory comments about Prophet Muhammad late May, large-scale protests erupted across country. Notably, massive protests 3 June broke out in capital New Delhi, Uttar Pradesh (north), West Bengal (east), Telangana (south), Jharkland (east) and Jammu and Kashmir (north) states; police shot dead at least two protesters in Ranchi, Jharkland, while police in Uttar Pradesh arrested 421 people and demolished houses of alleged protest organisers. United Arab Emirates, Oman, Indonesia, Iraq, Maldives, Jordan, Libya, Bahrain, Kuwait, Iran and Qatar all lodged protests over comments; BJP 5 June suspended spokesperson and expelled regional leader. Video 28 June posted online showed two Muslims claiming responsibility for murder of Hindu in Rajasthan state (north west) in retaliation for remarks, triggering further protests in various parts of country. In another episode of unrest, govt 14 June announced new scheme of recruiting soldiers on short-term contracts in bid to slash salary and pension payments that consume half of defence budget, triggering demonstrations in Bihar (north east), Haryana (north), Madhya Pradesh (centre), Uttar Pradesh (north), Uttarakhand (north), Rajasthan (north), Telangana (south), West Bengal (east), Odisha (east), Punjab (north) and Kerala (south); protesters clashed with police, injuring many, and burnt govt property, public transport vehicles, trains and railway stations in most of aforementioned states. In Telangana, police 17 June fired shots at mob ransacking railway station, leaving one dead and several injured. Overall, police arrested over 1,000 people, including 800 in Bihar alone. Maoist violence continued. Notably, Maoists 19 June killed villager in Kondagaon district of Chhattisgarh state (centre) on suspicion of being police informer. Security forces next day killed three Maoists during security operation in Balaghat district, Madhya Pradesh. Relations with China remained tense. FM S. Jaishankar 18 June blamed China for border crisis, stating: “We will not allow any unilateral attempt by China to change the status quo or alter the [Line of Actual Control]”.
Military expressed both confidence and concern amid ongoing boundary dispute with China. Northern Army commander Lt Gen Upendra Dwivedi 6 May said situation along Line of Actual Control is “stable but it is in the state of heightened alert” to avoid repeat of April 2020 deadly clashes between Chinese and Indian forces, while citing regular hotline exchanges with Chinese counterparts and calibrated force deployment as ensuring “any misadventure by the adversary does not take place again”. Army chief Gen Manoj Pande 9 May said “China’s intent has been to keep the boundary issue alive” and said disengagement in areas such as Hot Springs, Depsang Plains and Demchok “can only be resolved through dialogue”; Pande also said Indian army’s intention “is to restore the status quo ante prior to April 2020”. Media reports 19 May indicated China had begun constructing second bridge across Pangong Lake in Eastern Ladakh, cutting distance between Chinese troops on north bank and eastern end of lake by around 150km. Meanwhile, authorities continued bulldozing houses and buildings in Muslim areas on pretext of illegal construction, notably in New Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh area - site of anti-govt protests Dec 2019-March 2020. Local court in Varanasi city, Uttar Pradesh state (north), 16 May directed administration to prohibit entry to Gyanvapi Masjid complex, where idol of Hindu god was reportedly found; Supreme Court next day ordered area protection, allowed Muslims to pray there till case is concluded. Recent events sparked concerns that move is reminiscent of controversial demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992 by Hindu right-wing activists. Media reports early month indicated security forces opened 20 new security camps to tackle Maoist insurgency in Chhattisgarh (centre) Jharkhand, Bihar (east), Maharashtra (west) and Telangana (south central) states in past six months. Rocket-propelled grenade 9 May hit intelligence wing headquarters of Punjab Police at night in Mohali, extension of Punjab state’s capital Chandigarh; Punjab police 13 May claimed pro-Khalistan militant outfit, Babbar Khalsa International, along with gangsters backed by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, carried out attack.
Communal violence flared during celebration of Hindu festivals, deadly Maoist activity continued, and govt extended ceasefire with Naga armed groups. Communal violence and rioting between Hindus and Muslims in states of Delhi, Uttarakhand, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka 16 April erupted during celebrations of Hindu festival Hanuman Jayanti. Earlier, celebration of another Hindu festival, Ram Navami, 10 April also led to communal clashes in states as distant as Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Jharkhand and West Bengal. In both instances Muslim homes and shops were destroyed, preceded by provocative hoisting of Hindu nationalist saffron flags on mosques – suggesting attacks were well-planned rather than spontaneous. Maoist violence continued. Notably, Maoists 10 April hacked police officer to death in Bijapur district, Chhattisgarh state (centre); banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) 15 April alleged that security forces targeted them in Bijapur district, using more than 50 bombs within one hour, though there were no deaths or injuries; security forces denied conducting any such airstrikes. Maoists 17 April attacked security camp in Bijapur district with grenades, injuring four security forces personnel. Maoists 18 April allegedly killed 30-year-old man in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma district. Govt 20 April extended ceasefire agreement with three Naga (tribes located in Nagaland and Manipur states) militant groups for another year, until 27 April 2023; groups include breakaway factions of powerful anti-govt separatist armed groups NSCN-IM and NSCN-K, namely National Socialist Council of Nagaland-NK (NSCN-NK), National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Reformation (NSCN-R) and National Socialist Council of Nagaland-K-Khango (NSCN-K-Khango). Govt interlocuter for talks 19 April met NSCN (IM) general secretary at group’s headquarters near Dimapur, Nagaland state (north east); while talks have been ongoing since 1997, progress has remained stalled as NSCN-IM refuses to give up demand for separate flag and constitution for Nagas.
Ruling party won majority of constituencies in five state elections, Maoist violence continued, while military held new round of talks on disputed border with China. Ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) retained power in four of five state assembly elections – specifically Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Manipur and Uttarakhan states – according to 10 March results. In Punjab, where BJP won only two out of 117 constituencies, relative newcomer Aam Aadmi Party (Common Man’s Party) claimed victory. Elections were seen as bellwether for national elections scheduled for 2024. Maoist-related violence continued. Notably, in Chhattisgarh state (centre), bomb blasts 14 March killed one security personnel and injured two more in Narayanpur district; Maoists 19 March allegedly killed pastor on suspicion of being police informer in Bastar area. Director general of Central Reserve Police Force 17 March cautioned that “we don’t have roads” connecting police camps that are growing in quantity in areas of Maoist activity. Amid ongoing war in Ukraine following Russia’s invasion (see Ukraine), Foreign Ministry 2 March held briefing for opposition parliamentarians on situation; opposition attendees reportedly praised govt’s efforts and endorsed India’s abstention at UN votes. Relations between govt and China remained strained over disputed boundary known as Line of Actual Control (LAC). Asked whether China might step up aggression along disputed border following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, FM S. Jaishankar 2 March reportedly responded “India is no Ukraine.” Officials 11 March held 15th round China-India Corps Commander Level Meeting at Chushul-Moldo border meeting point on Indian side in Ladakh region, with no breakthrough during talks; India had sought to resolve friction points of Patrolling Point 15 at Hot Springs and areas of Demchok and Depsang plains. Chinese FM Wang Yi 24 March arrived in capital New Delhi in first visit by high-ranking Chinese govt official since Galwan border clash in May 2020.
Maoist-related violence continued, while tensions between govt and China persisted. Maoist activity and anti-Maoist security operations continued during month. In Odisha state (east), explosive device allegedly planted by Maoists 5 Feb killed journalist in Kalahandi district; Maoists 15 Feb allegedly killed 32-year-old man in Kandhamal district on suspicion that he was police informer. In Chhattisgarh state (centre), clashes with Maoists 12 Feb killed one security forces personnel and injured another in Bijapur district; security forces 16 Feb killed Maoist in security operation in Lohardaga district. In Jharkland state (east), 12-day security operation 19 Feb led to arrest of ten Maoists in Lohardaga district. Tensions continued with China. Govt 3 Feb announced diplomatic boycott of Beijing Winter Olympic games just ahead of opening ceremony. FM S. Jaishankar 11 Feb said dispute over unofficial border known as Line of Actual Control (LAC) had “arisen due to the disregard by China in 2020 of written agreements with us, not to amass forces at the border”; in response, China’s foreign ministry said “responsibility does not rest with China”. Jaishankar 19 Feb said “the state of the border will determine the state of the relationship” and “relations with China right now are going through a very difficult phase”.
Maoist-related violence increased, north east witnessed militant attacks, and tensions persisted with China over disputed unofficial boundary. Month witnessed uptick in Maoist-related violence. Notably, security operation 18 Jan killed three alleged Maoists, including one woman, and left one security personnel injured on border of Telangana state (centre) and Chhattisgarh state (centre). Encounter with Maoists 2 Jan injured Special Task Force constable in Gariyaband district of Chhattisgarh. Maoists 4 Jan killed two police guards of former lawmaker in Jharkhand state (east). Encounter between police and Maoists 5 Jan killed Maoist in Aurangabad district of Bihar state (east). Chhattisgarh police 6 Jan claimed Maoists killed three officers in Bijapur district. Exchange of fire between Maoists and security forces 18 Jan killed two Maoists in Sukma and Bijapur districts; police same day killed three Maoists in Mulugu district of Telangana. Conflict in neighbouring Myanmar fueled militancy in north east. Security operation reportedly left two insurgents and one security forces personnel killed during raid of Manipur militant group People’s Liberation Army’s camp about 10km inside Myanmar 13 Jan; Indian army 17 Jan denied operation. Earlier, IED blast 5 Jan killed one security forces member and injured another in Thoubal district, Manipur state; Manipur-based outfit People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (Progressive) subsequently claimed responsibility. Tensions continued with China over disputed territory. China’s Land Border Law 1 Jan came into effect, with law stipulating that state will take measures to safeguard territorial integrity and land boundaries and “combat any act that undermines” this effort, also calling for opening up border areas to civilian population and ramping up infrastructure along borders. Observers fear law could provide legal cover for Chinese military transgressions across disputed unofficial border known as Line of Actual Control (LAC), as Beijing late Dec had issued names for 15 locations inside Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh situated on border. Media 3 Jan also reported that China is building bridge on Pangong Tso Lake in Eastern Ladakh, which would enable faster passage of troops and equipment. Indian govt 12 Jan held 14th round of military talks with China at senior highest military commander level, aimed at resolving 21-month standoff in eastern Ladakh; military talks yielded no progress but both countries pledged to stay in contact.
Maoist violence continued, while civilians and army clashed in north east following botched security raid. Maoist violence continued. In Jharkhand state (east), firefight 6 Dec erupted between police and Maoists in West Singhbhum district; police 16 Dec reportedly killed suspected Maoist commander in West Singhbhum district. In Chhattisgarh state (centre), Maoists 13 Dec killed man suspected of being police informer in Sukma district. Security forces 18 Dec killed two female Maoists in Dantewada district. In Odisha state (east), firefight 16 Dec broke out between security forces and Maoists. Army 4 Dec shot and killed six coal mine workers returning home from work in pickup truck – reportedly mistaking them for militants belonging to splintered faction of banned armed group National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang) – in botched security operation in north-eastern Nagaland state’s Mon district; clashes same day between angry locals and army killed seven civilians and one soldier; soldiers next day killed civilian after protesters attacked army camp, leaving at least two locals missing and feared dead. In newly formed centrally administered union territory of Ladakh, carved out of Jammu and Kashmir after govt abrogated Article 370 in Aug 2019, people and political leaders from across political spectrum 13 Dec observed complete shutdown to demand statehood and greater political autonomy in some tribal areas and states in north east. After one year of protests against controversial farm law on the borders of capital Delhi, farmers 11 Dec began leaving camps as govt withdrew law. Meanwhile, relations with China witnessed no improvement as tensions persisted over disputed unofficial border known as Line of Actual Control. Minister of home affairs 7 Dec informed lower house of parliament that there had been no incident of infiltration on border with China and Bhutan in past three years; 128 incidents however recorded along Pakistan border, 1,787 incidents along Bangladesh border, 25 incidents on Nepal border, 133 on Myanmar border. Govt 19 Dec hosted third meeting of India-Central Asia Dialogue in Delhi with FMs from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan; joint statement emphasised importance of regular consultations to counter terrorism and other regional challenges.
Security forces launched large-scale operation against Maoists, while PM Modi announced repeal of controversial agricultural laws as farmers marked one year of protests. Two months after govt declared it would end Maoist insurgency within one year, security forces 13 Nov conducted one of largest operations in recent times in Maharashtra state (west), killing 26 insurgents. Elsewhere, security forces 5 Nov killed Maoist in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh state (centre), 7 Nov killed Maoist in Kalahandi district of Odisha state (east), 15 Nov killed Maoist in Narayanpur district of Chhattisgarh state. In Bihar state (east), Maoists 13 Nov killed four villagers, including two women, in Gaya district; 22 Nov blew up govt building and cell phone tower in Aurangabad district. In significant escalation, secessionist militants 13 Nov ambushed security forces’ convoy in Churachandapur district of Manipur state (north east), close to Myanmar border, killing commanding officer, his wife, son as well as four other security personnel; anti-India People’s Liberation Army and Manipur Naga People’s Front claimed responsibility for attack. After right-wing Hindu groups attacked mosques and Muslim-owned properties late Oct in Tripura state (north east), bordering Bangladesh, in retaliation for attacks on Hindus in Bangladesh, police 3 Nov registered terrorism cases against more than 100 journalists, activists and social media accounts for allegedly distorted reporting of events. PM Modi 19 Nov announced intention to repeal controversial farm laws that had led to widespread protests for past year; marking one-year anniversary since start of movement, thousands of farmers 26 Nov held rallies across country. Parliament 29 Nov passed bill to repeal laws. Amid ongoing tensions with China over Line of Actual Control (LAC), unofficial border between two countries, FM Jaishankar 19 Nov said: “We are going through a particularly bad patch in our relationship because they [China] have taken a set of actions in violation of agreements for which they still don’t have a credible explanation”. Earlier, chief of defence staff 11 Nov stated Chinese military activity had been entirely on Chinese side of LAC.
Farmer protests turned deadly, Maoist violence continued, and talks with China on disputed border stalled. Farmer-led protests turned deadly. In unprecedented incident, convoy of cars reportedly associated with son of deputy home minister 3 Oct ran over and killed four protesters in Uttar Pradesh state; in retaliation, protesters attacked car, killing driver and two members of ruling party; govt next day announced judicial enquiry and police 9 Oct arrested minister’s son. During 16 Oct protest on Delhi-Haryana border 16 Oct, four people tied man to barricades and cut off hand before killing him after he allegedly desecrated Sikh holy book; incident fuelled speculation of subterfuge in attempt to discredit farmer-led protests. Meanwhile, Maoist militant 8 Oct injured security forces member during shootout in Narayanpur district of Chhattisgarh state (centre). Security forces 12 Oct killed three Maoists and 15 Oct exchanged fire with others in Malkangiri district of Odisha state (east); 23 Oct killed Maoist in Lakhisarai district, Bihar state (east); 25 Oct killed three leaders in Mulugu district of Telangana state (central-south). Tensions with Chinese armed forces along disputed unofficial border known as Line of Actual Control (LAC) briefly spiked early month as both sides came face-to-face and close to clashing in East Tawang sector of Arunachal Pradesh state, which is claimed by China but controlled by India. Army commanders 10 Oct held 13th round of talks with Chinese counterparts to discuss disengagement and de-escalation of LAC as well as protocols for military patrols of region; foreign ministry 11 Oct claimed “Chinese side was not agreeable and also could not provide any forward-looking proposals”; continued deadlock means both armed forces – comprising thousands of troops as well as tanks and air defences – would remain in forward areas during upcoming winter months.
Military held exercises close to disputed Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China, authorities signed agreement with insurgent groups in Assam state, and clashes with Maoists persisted. Army 3 Sept conducted live-fire exercises using tanks and helicopters in eastern Ladakh, close to Line of Actual Control (LAC). FM S. Jaishankar 16 Sept met Chinese counterpart Wang Yi at Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit, where Jaishankar noted some progress in resolution of issues related to LAC as well as completion of disengagement in Gogra area since July but said there were still outstanding issues. In Assam state, govt 5 Sept signed peace agreement with provincial govt and with five insurgent groups — the Karbi Longri North Cachar Hills Liberation Front, People’s Democratic Council of Karbi Longri, United People’s Liberation Army, Karbi People’s Liberation Tigers and the Kuki Liberation Front — from tribal region of Karbi Anglong; agreement pledged devolution of power and greater autonomy. Maoist violence continued at lower level in Sept compared to Aug; in Maharashtra state (west), Maoists 19 Sept shot dead villager in Gadchiroli District; exchange of fire between security forces and Maoist militants 21 Sept also occurred in Malkangiri District of Odisha state (east). Hundreds of thousands of farmers 5 Sept rallied in Muzaffarnagar city in Uttar Pradesh state (north) to protest govt-proposed agricultural reforms in largest protest in almost ten months of campaigning. Protesters 27 Sept marked ten months with all-India shutdown rally, blocking roads and railway lines in capital Delhi and calling for national strike. Amid armed clashes in Myanmar, thousands of refugees 10 Sept entered Champhai and Hnahthial districts of Mizoram state, which shares 501km border with country (see Myanmar).
Maoist violence continued in south and centre, farmers marked nine months of protests, and inter-province tensions remained high in north east. Maoist violence continued. In Telangana state (south), exchange of fire between militants and police 1 Aug killed one Maoist in Bhadradri Kothagudem district. In Chhattisgarh state (centre), Maoist IED attack 5 Aug killed one labourer and injured eleven civilians in Dantewada district; Maoists 20 Aug killed two paramilitary police personnel in Narayanpur district; security forces 24 Aug killed two Maoists in Sukma district. In Bihar state (east), Maoists 25 Aug killed two suspected police informers in Jamui district. Farmers’ protests against agriculture laws marked nine months on 26 Aug; Punjab chief minister 11 Aug urged PM Modi to withdraw laws, warned that protests had potential of posing security threats as Pakistan-supported forces were trying to exploit farmers’ anger. In north east, following late-July border dispute between Assam and Mizoram police forces, which left six Assam policemen dead, Assam residents 8 Aug lifted unofficial economic blockade on Mizoram state in place for ten days following govt intervention. Unidentified assailants 14 Aug bombed school in Hailakandi district, Assam state; authorities in Mizoram 17 Aug alleged Assam police opened fire on three Mizo civilians. Following 12th round of military talks with China about unofficial border known as Line of Actual Control (LAC), govt 6 Aug confirmed Indian and Chinese forces had disengaged from Gogra area of Eastern Ladakh, with sides having also verified dismantlement of all temporary structures, creating wider buffer zone. India mid-Aug held military exercises in East Sikkim district, close to LAC. Chinese media 25 Aug reported military drills in Tibet, described by Chinese commentators as warning to India.
Maoist violence continued in centre and east while Indian and Chinese FMs met to discuss disengagement along disputed border. Maoist violence continued. In Chhattisgarh state (centre), Maoists killed civilian and worker of mining site in Narayanpur district; security forces 13 July killed one Maoist in Bijapur district; security forces 15 July killed three Maoists in Dantewada district; Maoists 16 July killed suspected police informer in Gariabandh district; exchange of fire with Maoists 20 July killed one member of security forces in Narayanpur district; security forces 25 July killed one Maoist in Sukma district. In Jharkhand state (east), security forces 15 July killed one Maoist in Gumla district and another 16 July in West Singhbhum district. In Odisha state (east), security forces 22 July killed one Maoist in Nuapada district. FM Subrahmanyam Jaishankar 14 July met Chinese State Councillor Wang Yi, after which India’s FMA emphasised that disengagement along Line of Actual Control in Eastern Ladakh was not yet complete and situation was “still unresolved”; in contrast, China’s FMA claimed “overall situation in the border area was de-escalated”. Military commanders from both sides 31 July held 12th round of talks on de-escalation. Meanwhile, hostilities 26 July erupted along border of Assam and Mizoram states in north east of country between state police forces, reportedly killing six policemen; fighting follows mutual accusations of territorial encroachment. Farmers continued to protest against controversial agriculture laws. Notably, farmers 8 July held nationwide protests against fuel price hike and vowed to hold rallies outside federal parliament from 19 July. Amid widespread criticism of mishandling COVID-19 crisis after official death toll surpassed 400,000 in early July, and ahead of state and general elections due to be held before May 2024, PM Modi 7 July removed 12 members of his cabinet, including minister of health.
Reports revealed increased military build-up along disputed China-India border; meanwhile, Maoist violence persisted. Local media reports 2 June indicated Chinese military had for first time created combined air defence system for Chinese military responsible for border operations along disputed Line of Actual Control (LAC). Indian and Chinese diplomats 25 June agreed on bilateral mechanism to hold next round of military talks “at an early date to achieve complete disengagement from all the friction points” in Western Sector of LAC. Defense Minister Rajnath Singh 27 June arrived in Ladakh territory on three-day visit to carry out comprehensive review of India’s operational readiness along LAC. Reports same day emerged that India had redirected at least 50,000 additional troops and fighter jet squadrons to border with China in recent months, resulting in roughly 200,000 total Indian troops. Meanwhile, Singh 17 June inaugurated 12 roads in Arunachal Pradesh, Ladakh, and Jammu and Kashmir regions, saying India is “capable of giving a befitting reply to those who show aggression towards us” and that roads would help secure India’s borders and aid movement of defence forces (see also Kashmir). Maoist violence continued. In Chhattisgarh state (centre), exchange of fire with security forces killed two Maoists in Kondagaon district; security forces 18 June killed Maoist in Bastar district; security forces 19 June killed two Maoists in Narayanpur district and one Maoist in Dantewada district 27 June. In Odisha state (east), security forces 11 June killed Maoist in Bargarh district. In Andhra Pradesh (south east), police 16 June killed six Maoists in Visakhapatnam district. Overall COVID-19 epidemic improved as number of cases began to decline and vaccination programme picked up speed, with authorities 21 June administering record 8.5mn doses in single day. To mark seven months of protests, thousands of farmers 26 June demonstrated nationwide demanding govt repeal controversial agriculture laws.
COVID-19 crisis continued to grip country as Maoist violence persisted in centre and west, and tens of thousands of farmers marked six months of protest movement. Country continued to reel under COVID-19 crisis as official tallies surpassed 300,000 deaths and 25mn cases, with unofficial cases and mortality rate possibly reaching far greater numbers; hundreds of corpses mid-month were spotted floating in river Ganges and washing up on embankments in various northern states. Maoist violence persisted. In Chhattisgarh state (centre), Maoists 11 May killed police constable in Sukma district, and next day killed civilian suspected of being police informer in Narayanpur district; IED 18 May killed police head constable in Bijapur district. Police 14 May killed Maoist in Dantewada district; exchanges of fire between police and Maoists 17 May killed three suspected Maoists in Sukma district; police 22 and 31 May killed Maoist in Dantewada district. In Maharashtra state (west), security forces 13 May killed two Maoists and 21 May killed 13 Maoists in Gadchiroli district. Ahead of six-month anniversary of farmer protests on 26 May, leaders of protest movement 21 May called on PM Modi to resume talks on their key demands, threatening intensification of protests if govt declines to engage; tens of thousands of farmers 26 May demonstrated across country. At border dispute with China, reports 10 May surfaced that China had equipped troops on Indian border with modified truck-mounted rocket, affording military greater mobility and flexibility. Indian army chief general 20 May said India will continue enhanced troop presence along border until de-escalation takes place and denied that talks with Beijing had reached impasse, saying trust had increased following disengagement deal in Feb.
Maoists launched deadliest ambush in four years, deadly COVID-19 wave engulfed country, and govt and China held new round of talks on disputed border. In deadliest and most daring attack on security forces since 2017, hundreds of Maoist insurgents 3 April ambushed security patrol in Chhattisgarh state (centre), killing 22 security forces personnel and injuring over 30 others; attack prompted govt to step up counter-insurgency operations in region. Maoist violence also continued elsewhere, including in Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Jharkhand states. Notably, in Maharashtra state (west), Maoists 3 April killed local official in Gadchiroli district. In Chhattisgarh state, Maoists 16 April attacked road workers in Sukma district, killing employee. In Odisha state (east), security forces 23 April killed Maoist in Kalahandi district. In Jharkhand state (east), Maoists 23 April shot dead civilian in West Singhbhum district. Meanwhile, COVID-19 infections reached alarming proportions as health ministry 24 April reported over 345,000 cases in previous 24 hours, with total of at least 200,000 deaths so far. In many cities, including capital New Delhi, govt and private hospitals faced shortage of oxygen, and cremation grounds were extended to accommodate increase in deaths; Modi govt throughout month faced criticism for having allowed – despite COVID-19 concerns – recent political rallies and weeks-long Hindu festival Kumbh Mela which attracts millions of pilgrims from across country. China-India border talks stalled over sequencing of border troop withdrawal. Indian and Chinese military officials 9 April met in eastern Ladakh province for 11th round of talks on disengagement along Line of Actual Control (LAC), two months after 10th round; MFA previous day stated India “would like to see disengagement in the remaining areas”. Talks made no progress as Chinese side reportedly proposed to first “deescalate” troops, meaning to pull back troops who sit behind the front lines, while Indian side proposed to “disengage” front-line troops from additional areas from border. Referring to border crisis, Indian Ambassador to China Vikram Misri 15 April said it was “inadvisable” to “sweep this situation under the carpet and characterise it as just a minor issue and a matter of perspective”.
Farmer protests against agricultural reforms continued, Maoist violence persisted, and disengagement agreement with China over border dispute held. Farmers 6 March marked 100 days of protests against govt’s proposed agricultural reforms by staging roadblock of major highway outside capital New Delhi; thousands of women 8 March participated in farmer protests on outskirts of Delhi to mark International Women’s Day. Farm unions 26 March called for 12-hour nationwide shutdown to maintain pressure on govt, while protesters in northern regions blocked railways in dozens of locations. Anti-Maoist security operations and Maoist violence continued throughout month. In Jharkhand state (east), IED 4 March killed three security personnel in West Singhbhum district. In Chhattisgarh state(centre), IEDs 4-5 March killed officer in Dantewada district and Maoists 23 March killed five police in Narayanpur district; security forces 20 March killed two Maoists in Dantewada district; Maoists 26 March killed local govt member in Bijapur district. In Andhra Pradesh state (south east), Maoists 5 March killed former militant suspected of being police informer in Visakhapatnam district. In Odisha state (east), Maoists and security forces 14 March exchanged fire in Malkangiri district. In Bihar state (east), security forces 16 March killed four Maoists in Gaya district. Following partial disengagement deal along unofficial and disputed Himalayan border known as Line of Actual Control in Feb, Chinese FM Wang Yi 7 March said India and China should “expand and enhance cooperation to create enabling conditions for the settlement” of border issue, while stressing that “initiating confrontation will not solve the problem”.
India and China struck deal to disengage along part of contested border, while Maoist violence and farmer protests continued. Following nine rounds of talks between military commanders, India and China 11 Feb announced agreement on mutual withdrawal of military forces from Pangong Lake area on unofficial and disputed Himalayan border known as Line of Actual Control; joint communiqué 21 Feb confirmed “smooth completion of disengagement of frontline troops in the Pangong Lake area” as sides vowed to “continue their communication and dialogue”. China 19 Feb confirmed death of four Chinese soldiers in border clashes in June 2020 – its first admission of any casualties in scuffle which had killed 20 Indian soldiers. Meanwhile, anti-Maoist security operations and Maoist violence continued throughout month. In Chhattisgarh state (centre), security forces 6 Feb killed senior Maoist commander in Dantewada district, while IEDs 7, 24 Feb killed soldier in Bijapur District and border guard in Narayanpur district, respectively; Maoists 15 Feb killed local village official in Naryanpur district and 17 Feb killed villager in Rajnandgaon district. In Bihar state (east), security forces 11 Feb killed Maoist in Lakhisarai district. In Jharkhand state (east), IED 16 Feb killed police constable in Lohardaga district. In Madhya Pradesh (centre), security forces night of 12-13 Feb killed two Maoists in Mandla district. Following violent unrest last month, farmers 6 Feb blocked national and state roads nationwide in protest of govt’s proposed agricultural reforms; PM Modi 8 Feb urged farmers to end their over-two-month long protest and 10 Feb invited farmers to talks. Police in New Delhi 9 Feb arrested man accused of leading protesters who stormed historic Red Fort last month; police 13 Feb arrested climate activist for alleged role in spreading misinformation related to unrest. U.S. President Biden and PM Modi during 8 Feb telephone call agreed to continue close cooperation in Indo-Pacific to promote “stronger regional architecture through the Quad”, referring to informal grouping of U.S., India, Japan and Australia (see South China Sea).
Maoist-related violence persisted, protests against agriculture reforms left one dead, and small-scale tensions erupted at India-China border over unofficial boundary. Anti-Maoist security operations and Maoist violence continued throughout month. In Chhattisgarh state (centre), security forces 13-19 Jan killed three Maoists in Dantewada and Bijapur districts; Maoists 14-30 Jan killed six civilians and two security personnel in Rajnandgaon, Bijapur, Kondagaon, Kanker and Narayanpur districts. In Jharkhand state (east), Maoists 16 and 17 Jan killed two civilians in Latehar and Chatra districts. In Odisha state (east), Maoists 30 Jan killed two civilians in Kandhamal district. In Maharashtra state (west), Maoists 5 Jan killed civilian in Gadchiroli district. Tens of thousands of farmers continued to demonstrate throughout month on outskirts of capital New Delhi, calling on govt to repeal controversial agriculture laws; govt and farmers held several rounds of unsuccessful talks. Farmers 26 Jan rallied in New Delhi on Republic Day to protest govt agricultural reforms; one protester died and hundreds of demonstrators and police officers were injured in clashes, which climaxed with protesters storming city’s historic Red Fort. Internationally, amid months-long border standoff with China, Indian army 8 Jan apprehended Chinese soldier who reportedly crossed Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh and 11 Jan handed him over to China. Indian and Chinese military officials 24 Jan held talks on disengagement of forces along LAC, agreeing to continue efforts to ensure “restraint of the front-line troops”. Indian army 25 Jan said Indian and Chinese troops had been involved in “minor face-off” at Naku La pass in north-eastern Sikkim state on 20 Jan, adding that it was “resolved by local commanders”. In Palk Strait between India and Sri Lanka, Indian fishing boat – allegedly engaged in illegal fishing in Sri Lankan waters – 18 Jan reportedly collided with Sri Lankan navy ship, causing it to sink and four fishermen to drown; India 21 Jan lodged “strong protest” with Sri Lanka. FM Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and Nepali FM Pradeep Gyawali 15 Jan reportedly discussed India-Nepal border dispute. India 1 Jan began its two-year tenure as non-permanent member of UN Security Council.
Uttar Pradesh state authorities launched crackdown on alleged forced conversion to Islam, and anti-Maoist security operations continued. In Uttar Pradesh state, governed by ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), police 3 Dec made first arrest under recently approved law criminalising forced religious conversion by marriage; law seeks to curb so-called “love jihad”, conspiracy theory according to which Muslim men marry Hindu women to convert them to Islam in order to alter country’s demographic balance; police arrested 49 individuals in 12 cases throughout month. Also run by BJP, Madhya Pradesh state govt 29 Dec cleared similar bill, still to be approved by state governor. Right-wing Hindu groups 25-31 Dec organised rallies in Madhya Pradesh state, reportedly leading to clashes with Muslims in Ujjain district 25 Dec and vandalized mosque in Indore district 29 Dec; authorities arrested nearly 50 individuals. Meanwhile, anti-Maoist security operations and Maoist violence continued. In Chhattisgarh state (centre), Maoists 2-29 Dec killed three civilians and one police officer in Bijapur, Sukma and Rajnandgaon districts; security forces 16 and 28 Dec shot and killed three Maoists in Sukma and Dantewada districts. In Madhya Pradesh state (centre), security forces 12 Dec shot and killed two Maoists in Balaghat district. In Odisha state (east), Maoists 17 Dec hacked to death civilian in Malkangiri district; security forces 11-12 Dec killed three Maoists in Kandhamal and Malkangiri districts. In Andhra Pradesh state (south east), Maoists 14 and 23 Dec killed two civilians in Visakhapatnam district. In Jharkhand state (east), security forces 16-22 Dec killed four Maoists in Latehar, West Singhbhum, Khunti and Ranchi districts. Tens of thousands of farmers continued to demonstrate throughout month on outskirts of capital New Delhi,demanding govt revoke contentious agriculture laws adopted in Sept they say will deregulate crops and reduce earnings; govt and farmers held several rounds of talks, reaching partial agreement 30 Dec. India’s reported COVID-19 cases 19 Dec surpassed 10mn. Amid border standoff with China, Indian and Chinese diplomats 18 Dec held talks but failed to make any breakthrough; both sides agreed to continue dialogue.
Anti-Maoist operations continued throughout month; meanwhile, India and China held disengagement talks amid tensions over disputed border. Isolated anti-Muslim attacks took place throughout month: ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supporters 11 Nov attacked mosque in Easter Champaran district in Bihar state, injuring at least four; four men 15 Nov also lynched Muslim in Uttar Pradesh. BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh state 22 Nov approved decree criminalising forceful religious conversion through marriage; law seeks to address so-called “love jihad”, conspiracy theory according to which Muslim men marry Hindu women to convert them to Islam in order to alter country’s demographic balance. Meanwhile, anti-Maoist operations and Maoist violence continued. In Chhattisgarh state (centre), security forces 3-26 Nov killed six Maoists in Bijapur and Kanker districts; Maoists 3-28 Nov killed three civilians and one police officer in Dhamtari, Lohardaga and Sukma districts. Also in centre, police 6 and 7 Nov killed Maoist in Balaghat district, Madhya Pradesh state. In east, security forces killed Maoist in Malkangiri district, Odisha state, and night of 21-22 Nov shot and killed three Maoists in Gaya district, Bihar state; Maoists 21 Nov shot and killed civilian in Chatra district, Jharkhand state. In Kerala state (south), security forces 3 Nov shot and killed Maoist in Wayanad district. Internationally, Indian and Chinese military officials 6 Nov held “candid, in-depth and constructive” talks on disengagement of forces along Line of Actual Control and agreed to continue dialogue and ensure that their border troops “exercise restraint and avoid misunderstanding and miscalculation”. After relations between India and Nepal deteriorated following border row in May, India’s army chief 4-6 Nov visited Nepal and held talks with his counterpart and Nepali PM Oli in bid to reset bilateral ties (see Nepal). India, U.S., Japan and Australia held largest annual Malabar military exercises in over a decade in Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea, respectively 3-6 Nov and 17-20 Nov.