Kashmir: Bone of contention between India-Pakistan
Published: 10:03 PM, 22 August 2019 Updated: 04:03 PM, 25 August 2019
It is very unfortunate that Kashmir, one of the most beautiful places on earth and inhabited by peaceful people could be the bone of contention between India and Pakistan. Unlike similar disputed territories around the world, the main reason that Kashmir is at the center of strife has more to do with political reasons than with religious ideology, despite the fact that has been a melting pot of different religious faiths.
Since 1947, India and Pakistan have been locked in conflict over Kashmir as it is claimed by both of the powerful countries of South Asia. The roots of the conflict lie in the countries’ shared colonial past. From the 17th to the 20th century, Britain ruled most of the Indian subcontinent, first indirectly through the British East India Company, then from 1858 directly through the British crown. Over that time, the inhabitants of the subcontinent started consuming the ‘Divide & Rule’ ideology and they tried to implement it. Hoping for the overall power or authority is another reason behind the conflict.
Natural Beauty of Kashmir
The splendor and salubriousness of the Kashmir valley are legendary, in the words of the greatest of the Sanskrit poet Kali Das, ‘Kashmir is more beautiful than heaven and is the benefactor of supreme bliss and happiness.’ Kashmir's greatest historian Kalhan called it the ‘best place in the Himalayas, a country where the sun shines mildly.’ The 19th century British historian Sir Walter Lawrence wrote about it- ‘The valley is an emerald set in pearls; a land of lakes, clear streams, green turf, magnificent trees and mighty mountains where the air is cool, and the water sweet, where men are strong, and women vie with the soil in fruitfulness.’
How Names it
Legends have it that Rishi Kashyapa, the saint of antiquity, reclaimed the land of the Kashmir valley from a vast lake known as ‘Satisar’, after the goddess Sati, the consort of Lord Shiva. In ancient times, this land was called ‘Kashyapamar’ (after Kashyapa), but later that became Kashmir. The ancient Greeks called it ‘Kasperia’ and the Chinese pilgrim Hiun-Tsang who visited the valley in the 7th century called it ‘Kashimilo.’
Kashmir: At a Glance
Kashmir, a 222,236 sq km region in the northwestern Indian subcontinent, is surrounded by China in the northeast, the Indian states of Himachal Pradesh and Punjab in the south, by Pakistan in the west, and by Afghanistan in the northwest.
The region has been dubbed disputed territory between India and Pakistan since the partition of India in 1947. The southern and southeastern parts of the region make up the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, while the northern and western parts are controlled by Pakistan.
A border, called the Line of Control (agreed to in 1972) divides the two parts. The eastern area of Kashmir, comprising the northeastern part of the region (Aksai Chin) has been under the control of China since 1962. The predominant religion in the Jammu area is Hinduism in the east and Islam in the west. Islam is also the main religion in the Kashmir valley and in the Pakistan-controlled parts.
Kashmir: A Shared Haven for Hindus & Muslims
It may seem that the history and geography of Kashmir and the religious affiliations of its people present an ideal recipe for bitterness and animosity. But it is not so. The Hindus and Muslims of Kashmir have lived in harmony since the 13th century when Islam emerged as a major religion in Kashmir. The Rishi tradition of Kashmiri Hindus and Sufi-Islamic way of life of Kashmiri Muslims not only co-existed, but they complemented each other and also created a unique ethnicity in which Hindus and Muslims visited the same shrines and venerated the same saints.
Kashmir under Muslim Invaders
Several Hindu sovereigns ruled the land until 1346, the year marking the beginning of Muslim invaders. During this time, many Hindu shrines were destroyed, and Hindus were forced to embrace Islam. The Mughals ruled Kashmir from 1587 to 1752--a period of peace and order. This was followed by a dark period (1752-1819) when Afghan despots ruled Kashmir. The Muslim period, which lasted for about 500 years, came to an end with the annexation of Kashmir to the Sikh kingdom of Punjab in 1819.
Kashmir under Hindu Kings
The Kashmir region in its present form became a part of the Hindu Dogra kingdom at the end of the First Sikh War in 1846, when, by the treaties of Lahore and Amritsar, Maharaja Gulab Singh, the Dogra ruler of Jammu, was made the ruler of Kashmir "to the eastward of the River Indus and westward of the River Ravi." The Dogra rulers--Maharaja Gulab Singh (1846 to 1857), Maharaja Ranbir Singh (1857 to 1885), Maharaja Pratap Singh (1885 to 1925), and Maharaja Hari Singh (1925 to 1950) laid the foundations of the modern Jammu & Kashmir state. This princely state lacked a definite boundary until the 1880s when the British delimited boundaries in negotiations with Afghanistan and Russia. The crisis in Kashmir began immediately after the British rule ended.
The conflict in Kashmir continues today after it’s born from the partition of India in 1947. It involved two nuclear powers; India and Pakistan, who are in dispute over the territory. The conflict is set against the backdrop of the Himalayan mountains and valleys and involves a patchwork of languages, religions, and ethnicities.
The dispute over the region has continued for more than six decades, at a huge cost. Since the 1989 insurgency, 42 years after the partition there are estimated to be at least 70,000 dead and 8,000 missing by military, reported local human rights groups. Today Kashmiris face life alongside a huge military presence and ongoing militia operations. Although a ceasefire agreement was made between India and Pakistan in 2003, innumerable internal violence largely give way to non-violent protest. Later, the calm is often punctuated by military and insurgent operations from both sides.
Formation of Kashmir
The Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), was formed in 1846 under the Treaty of Amritsar signed between the East India Company and Maharaja Gulab Singh. The Maharaja became the founder of the Royal Dogra Dynasty and the first king of the Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir by paying 7.5 million of Nanak Shahi rupees (the ruling currency of the Sikh Empire) to the British government and bought Kashmir Valley, Ladakh Wizarat (comprising of Baltistan, Kargil and Leh) and added it to Jammu which was already under his rule. Gilgit Wizarat (comprising of Gilgit and Pamiri areas) were conquered later in the war against Sikh rule led by Dogra Generals.
First Kashmir War
Consequently to the signing of the Instrument of Accession, the first war was fought between India and Pakistan over the Jammu and Kashmir from 1947 to 1948. This led to more unrest and the United Nations had to intervene to negotiate a cease-fire. Most troops were withdrawn and a Ceasefire Line was mutually agreed upon between India and Pakistan in January 1949.
Indo-Pakistan War 1965
The Kashmir conflict has resumed again in the India-Pakistan War of 1965. The Pakistani army tried to take Kashmir by force but failed. The Security Council passed a resolution to put an end to the fighting and ban arms supplies to both parties.
The Shimla Agreement
The Shimla Agreement was signed between India and Pakistan in 1972 to bring peace between the two countries after the Independence of Bangladesh. Another line of control was established between Indian-controlled Kashmir and Pakistan-controlled Kashmir. Both countries agreed to put an end to the conflict and confrontation, and adjudicate their differences by peaceful means through bilateral negotiations without any third-party intervention. The signing of the agreement has essentially made Jammu and Kashmir dispute a bilateral one.
Kashmir Accord 1975
The Kashmir Accord (February 1975) was signed between Indira Gandhi and Sheikh Abdullah. The Accord strengthened India’s role over legislation in Kashmir, though the state continued to be governed by Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. It was agreed that, residuary powers of legislation shall remain with the State but Parliament of India will continue to have the power to make laws relating to the prevention of activities directed towards disclaiming, questioning or disrupting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India or bringing about secession of a part of the territory of India from the Union. In 1977, the Congress party of the state withdrew its support in favor of the Abdullah government, ending the National Conference-Congress Alliance. In retaliation, Abdullah began supporting the demand for Plebiscite.
Mass violence and exodus of Hindus
Jammu and Kashmir witnessed sporadic periods of violence post the Independence of India, but never an organized insurgency till 1989. Tens of thousands have been killed by violence in Indian-controlled Kashmir since 1989. In response, India imposed direct rule in 1990, which worsened the situation, resulting in violent attacks on Hindu residents. 100,000 Kashmiri Hindus (Pandits) fled the valley, fearing for their lives.
The Kargil conflict of 1999 erupted when India launched airstrikes against Pakistan-backed troops that had infiltrated Indian-controlled Kashmir. Pakistan refused to claim responsibility for the infiltration but was forced to call back its troops under pressure from the United States. Pakistan was also suspended from the Commonwealth.
The Scrapping of Article 370
The Indian government stripped Kashmir of the special autonomy which was existed there for a long time on August 4, 2019. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist party rushed through a presidential decree to scrap from the constitution the Indian-ruled part of the disputed territory’s special status. It also prepared a bill proposing the Indian-administered part of Kashmir be divided into two regions directly ruled by New Delhi. Ahead of the announcements, tens of thousands of extra Indian troops were deployed in the territory, and a security lockdown has been imposed disconnecting all telecommunications.
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