The issue of Kashmir is taking a toll on both India and Pakistan. Both the countries suffer financially, economically and politically as well. It has often created a war-like situation between both countries. However, it is much more than a border dispute. Let’s understand the history of Kashmir.
Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh were part of different empires. Over time, different dynasties like Karkota, Lahora, and Gonanditya ruled areas of North-western India including Kashmir. The area was under the control of Hindu rulers, Muslim emperors, Sikhs, Afghans and Britishers over the years.
Initially, Kashmir was controlled by Hindu dynasty. It was taken over by Muslim rulers in 1324. In 1587, it became a part of the Mughal empire under the rule of Mughal emperor Akbar. Akbar was succeeded by Aurangzeb who expanded the Mughal empire. However, Kashmir slipped from the hands of Aurangzeb’s successors and it passed to Afghan ruler Ahmed Shah Abdali in 1972.
In the early 19th century, Kashmir slipped into the hands of Sikh emperor Maharaja Ranjit Singh. The Sikhs continued to rule until they were defeated by Britishers in 1846. After that, Kashmir became a princely state under the British Empire.
In 1846, Maharaja Gulab Singh signed the ‘Treaty of Amritsar’ with British East India Company. He paid Rs 75 lakhs to East India Company in exchange for Kashmir and some other areas. It then became unifies and enjoyed a partial autonomy till 1947. During the time India-Pakistan partition, Jammu and Kashmir was a princely state ruled by Maharaja Hari Singh, the great-grandson of Maharaja Gulab Singh. Maharaja Hari Singh was a Hindu who ruled over a majority of Muslim states. In 1947, Britishers gave a choice to all princely states to either choose India or Pakistan or could even choose to remain independent. Maharaja Hari Singh did not want to merge either with India or with Pakistan. He tried to negotiate with both the countries to get an independent status for Kashmir. He offered a proposal of Standstill Agreement to both the countries, pending a final decision on State’s accession. On August 12, 1947, the Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir the communications to the Government of both nations.
Pakistan accepted his offer and sent a letter to J&K Prime Minister on August 15, 1947. On the other hand, Indian Government advised Maharaja Hari Singh to send his authorized representative to Delhi for further discussion on the offer.
India suggested conducting a plebiscite to know what Kashmiri people want. The Indian government was confident to win the plebiscite, if conducted. However, at that time, Junagadh, another princely state, was also to conduct plebiscite. Muhammad Mahabat Khanji III, the last Muslim ruler of the Junagadh decided to merge the state with newly formed Pakistan. The majority of population was were Hindus. The conflicts led to revolts leading to integration of Junagadh into India.
Pakistan entered into the standstill agreement with the state of Jammu and Kashmir but broke it by sponsoring a tribal militant attack in Kashmir in October 1947. Pashtun raiders from Pakistan invaded the territory of Kashmir and captured a large area. Hari Singh appealed to the Indian government who assured the help if he agreed to sign the Instrument of Accession. On Oct 26, 1947, Maharaja Hari Singh signed Instrument of Accession to India and the Indian armed force took over the control in Kashmir after the tribal assault. The situations led to the war between both countries.
India won the war and took over the the militants from Kashmir. However, Pakistan took over a small part of the state and called it ‘Azad Kashmir’. However, India calls it ‘Pakistan occupied Kashmir’ and claims it to be used for terrorist activities.
On 1 January, 1948, India brought the Kashmir dispute to United Nations Security Council that passed Resolution 47 on 21 April 1948 the set-up of the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP).
The UN resolution on Jammu and Kashmir mentioned the following things:
- Pakistan has to vacate all occupied territory in state and handover the vacated territory to India.
- India has to remove all its forces leaving aside enough to maintain law and order.
- India to conduct a plebiscite in the state.
However, the plebiscite was never held in Kashmir. Pakistan asked for time to vacate the area but never did.
In 1948, after Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession with India, Sheikh Abdullah took over as the Prime Minister of the State of J&K (the head of the government in the State was then called Prime Minister). Sheikh Abdullah was a close friend of some of the leading nationalist leaders including Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru who was the PM of India at that time. Sheikh was against the idea of merging Jammu and Kashmir into Pakistan. However, he delayed the formal accession to India. This led to the dismissal of the state government followed by his arrest. In 1957, Kashmir was formally incorporated into the Indian Union.
During 1953 to 1974, the politics of the State was majorly influenced by the Congress who had the direct control over the government of the State. In 1974, Indira Gandhi reached an agreement with Sheikh Abdullah and he became the Chief Minister of the State. He died in 1982, and his son Farooq Abdullah became the Chief Minister of the state. However, he was soon dismissed by the Governor due to the intervention of the Centre. His dismissal sparked a feeling of resentment in the valley. The Assembly elections took place in 1987 and Farooq Abdullah returned as Chief Minister. His comeback fuled the belief that the election process was rigged and that the democratic processes were undermined. This led to a political crisis in the valley.
In 1989, a movement asking Kashmir as a separate nation began. The activists got all kinds of support from Pakistan which included moral, material and military support. These militants soon drove out all the Hindus from the valley so that if a plebiscite happens, it would be meaningless. After the situations became worse, India imposed Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Jammu and Kashmir by 1990.
For the next few years, the state was under the President rule and was under the control Indian armed forces. In 1990, the Kashmir valley and its citizens experienced much violence by the insurgents and later by the action of the army to retaliate.
While the Kashmiris demanded the valley to become a separate nation, Pakistan took advantage and added fuel to fire. It gave financial and moral support to the militants and supported violence, curfew, stone pelting and firing in the valley. Even though the State elections are conducted, but the situation of Kashmir has not been normalised since 1987. In 2002, fair elections were conducted in Jammu and Kashmir in which the National Conference failed miserably People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Congress coalition government came into power.
Since 1947 till date, Pakistan has claimed that Kashmir should be a part of Pakistan. The region has been a reason of conflict between both nations ever since leading to 3 wars. Even today, there are cease-fire violations from Pakistan and Pakistan sponsored militants often cross the Line of Control.
Even China claimed a part of Jammu and Kashmir. In early 1950s, China started occupying eastern Kashmir which led to Indo-China war in 1962. Sadly, India lost the war.
The dispute of Kashmir never seems to end. Kashmir was given autonomy and a special status by article 370 in the Indian Constitution. Under the article 370, the valley has got special status which includes the following things:
- The state has its own constitution
- All provisions of the Indian Constitution are not applicable to Jammu and Kashmir
- Laws passed by the Parliament apply to J&K only if the State agrees.
- Indians who do not belong to Kashmir cannot buy property in the valley.
Section 370 has often created conflicts within India. The Kashmiris believe that the section is not enough for them. While, the Indian outside the valley believe that it should be revoked since it doesn’t allow the complete integration of the State in India.
The Kashmiris demand a greater autonomy in the State since they believe that article 370 has been eroded in practice. Secondly, they feel that the democracy that is practiced all over India has not been institutionalized the same way in the valley.
The state of Jammu and Kashmir is majorly divided into three social and political regions- Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh. The Jammu region has Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs. The Kashmir region mostly has Musmilms with a minority of Hindus. The Ladakh region is further divided into two regions- Leh and Kargil. Ladakh has very less population which is equally comprised on Muslims and Buddhists.
The demand for a separate nation is high only in the Kashmir valley. Most of the population in Jammu and Ladakh region still wish to be a part of India, though, they too demand autonomy but in a different way. They complain about neglect and backwardness and therefore demand a greater autonomy.
These are the Kashmiri Separatists group:
- All Parties Hurriyat Conference
- Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami
- Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front
- Hizbul Mujahideen
- Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind Flag.png Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind
Different separatist groups have different demands. Some want Kashmir to be independent nation, separate from both India and Pakistan. Some groups want Kashmir to be merged with Pakistan. And then, there are some groups who want Kashmir to be a part of India but with a greater autonomy.
India has presented documentary evidence to the United States that Pakistan supports terrorist organisations. This led to a ban on some terrorist organisations that Pakistan is yet to enforce. Former President of Pakistan and Ex-cheif of Pakistan Military Pervez Musharraf admitted in an interview in London that Pakistani government was involved in forming underground militant groups and also turned a blind eye towards them. In 2009, President of Pakistan Asif Zardari stated at a conference in Islamabad, Pakistan that their country was created Islamic militant groups as a strategic tool for use in its geostrategic agenda and “to attack Indian forces in Jammu and Kashmir”.
Even the British Government once accepted that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has clear connection with major militant groups operating in Jammu and Kashmir. According to American Intelligence officials, ISI provides constant support and protection to LeT. Pakistan is involved in training and arming underground militant groups to fight against Indian armed forces in Kashmir. It is reported that about Rs 24 million are paid out per month by ISI to fund its activities in Jammu and Kashmir.
Recently, terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed claimed the responsibility for a suicide bomb attack on Indian military convoy in Pulwama that killed over 40 CRPF Jawans. A similar incident had happened back in 2016, when 4 militants attacked Uri Base camp resulting in the death of 19 unarmed soldiers.
Decades have passed, but the issue of Kashmir doesn’t seem to get solved. There are frequent cease-fire violations across the Line of Control, the stones are pelted at the forces in the valley and the terrorist attacks are conducted to cause unrest in the valley. Thousands of soldiers have lost their lives due to the violence in Kashmir. And this doesn’t seem to end any sooner.
The violence in the valley has never really caused benefit to anybody. What it has caused is just the lives of thousands including soldiers and civilians. War is not a solution. Strategic steps need to be taken. It should be made sure that the minds of Kashmiri youths are not brainwashed. It’s time to bridge the gaps of trust between Kashmiri youth and Indian government. Secondly, Kashmir deserves its part of growth and progress. Thirdly, the state should get adequate political autonomy like the other states of India. What are your beliefs?