With 18 soldiers killed and 22 injured, Sunday’s militant attack on an Indian Army headquarters in Uri, Kashmir, was the most deadly of its kind in decades. But while the attack was nearly unprecedented in its lethality, in other ways, it was typical of recent militancy in Kashmir.
First, the location of the attack fits with the pattern of recent militant violence in Kashmir. The attack occurred in northwestern Kashmir’s Baramulla district, where 19 other attacks have occurred since 2010, according to data from the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP).
The attack on Uri took place in Baramulla District. Since January, 2010, 20 attacks by militants have taken place in the district, the second most of all districts in the state.
Kupwara District, to the north-west of Baramulla, has borne the brunt of the militancy in Kashmir, having seen 56 attacks since 2010.
“Uri and adjacent areas have historically been favoured routs for militants to cross over [from Pakistan], as the terrain is perfect for crossing over,” said Dr. Aijaz Ashraf Wani, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Kashmir.
Apart from Baramulla, only Kupwara, which borders Baramulla to the northwest, has seen more attacks since 2010.
“The primary reason why Kupwara has this unfortunate distinction is because it is a district which is most prone to cross border infiltration,” said Dr. Anit Mukherjee, an assistant professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies and former Major in the Indian Army who served in Kashmir. “Militants find it easiest to infiltrate to Kupwara and then subsequently spread out to other sections of the valley, like Bandipora, Sopore, Srinagar and South Kashmir.”
Mukherjee added that the high level of violence along the line of control indicates that the violence in Kashmir “is primarily driven from across the border — in terms of arms, ammunition and men.”
It is also possible that there is more violence near the line of control because that’s where the Indian soldiers are, added Wani.
Northwest Kashmir is “perhaps the most militarized zone,” he said, providing more targets for militants to strike. “There are increased chances of inflicting heavy damage.”
The timing of the attack, too, fits with the pattern of recent militancy in Kashmir. The month of September saw 22 militant attacks between 2010 and 2015, according to SATP's data. That’s more than any other month during the same time period.
“Infiltration mostly takes place over the summer, after the snows melt, which may explain why you see more attacks in late summer, extending into September and October,” said Dhruva Jaishankar, a foreign policy fellow at Brookings India.
At the same time as militants cross over the line of control, Indian security forces also increase their activities as the snows melt, said Mukherjee, re-establishing their posts in high altitude areas and launching long range patrols. “This results in frequent clashes between the two,” he added.