They were all there, sitting and trying to enjoy their food. The wind was breezing outside their little home. The snow was about to set in. The water had not frozen yet. It was peaceful. Yet, the family was having a hard time trying to get the tasty food down their throats. They knew that living in this Valley of the Gods meant death from the atrocities. But they were not willing to leave, since this was their homeland. How can anybody leave their homeland? They were not expecting somebody to come in, but they knew that their lives were short. This is the everyday thought process that every Kashmiri is going through. It doesn't mean that one type of Kashmiri has it better than the other. All areas within the region are affected by these inhuman atrocities. People of the region that is known as Jammu & Kashmir have been butchered and massacred by forces from all directions, including the Pakistanis, Indians, Chinese, Afghanis and, even worse, the Kashmiris themselves. Yes, this land is the Valley of Gods, yet this land has also now become the Land of the Crimson Red.
Jammu & Kashmir lies on top of the Himalayas. It is surrounded by four countries: to the north by the vast China, to the south by the diverse India, and to the west by the Islamic nations of Pakistan and Afghanistan. (For more information see the references section below.) The area has been tortured and claimed by forces from all these nations, while Kashmir itself asks for its independence. The crisis in Kashmir results from the division and existence of the ethno-religious lines.
Brief Pre-British Intervention History
To understand the current array of conflicts over Kashmir one has to look at the history of this region. The modern state of Jammu & Kashmir first came into existence as a controlled region somewhere in the 9th Century. The first settlers of this area were Buddhist followers from the time of Ashoka. This great king had been a Hindu but later had converted to Buddhism1, and at that time Buddhists made up the largest minority in the region. After Ashoka's death, local rulers came out and took over the land. Over time a huge Hindu population migrated to the area because of its fertility and beauty. One of the prominent kings that emerged from the local rulers was Rainchin Shah, who became king in 1320. Rainchin Shah was not tied to any religion and was advised to pick a religion by his ministers. He first tried Hinduism, since the majority of his subjects were Hindu. But the Brahmans told him that such a conversion was not possible. So instead Rainchin chose Islam. Most of his subjects followed suit and converted, thus creating a Muslim majority in the region2. This caused the region to become the only Muslim minority in India - one of the reasons the Pakistanis use to declare the region as part of their country.
Stage Left: Enter the British
In 1846, the British struck a deal with Maharaja Gulab Singh, a greedy Hindu Rajput3, to rule over Kashmir as a puppet government4. He became the first Hindu ruler in almost a millennium. He ruled tyrannically but his later descendents adopted a gentler approach and won the hearts of the people. This is one of the reasons the Indians give to assert their right over this region.
In 1947, India gained its independence from British rule. The British, under their Indian Independence Act of 1947, declared that no princely state could be independent; each princely state had to choose to be ruled either by India or Pakistan5.
...The Governor-General shall by order make such provision as appears to him to be necessary or expedient: - (a) for bringing the provisions of this Act into effective operation; (b) for dividing between the New Dominions, and between the new Provinces to be constituted under this Act, the powers, rights, property, duties and liabilities of the Governor-General of Council or, as the case may be, of the relevant Provinces which, under this Act, are to cease to exist...
Excerpt from Indian Independence Act, 1947
At the time, Kashmir was considered a princely state since it was ruled by a prince, not the British government. The other reason for Pakistani claims to the region can be traced back to the choices made by the princely states. All but three of the 552 princely states chose a dominion to join. The three that did not make a choice within the time limit were Hyderabad, Junagadh and Kashmir6. Hyderabad and Junagadh had Muslim rulers but Hindu subjects. Kashmir had a Hindu ruler but Muslim subjects. Hyderabad chose independence, but the Indian army took over by force. Junagadh, located close to Pakistan, declared that it was going to side with the Pakistanis. The Indian army again by force took over Junagadh, which angered the Pakistanis. The Pakistanis now based their claim on Kashmir on this wrongful decision by the Indians. Kashmir was by far the largest of three states. The ruler, a descendent of Maharaja Gulab Singh, was Maharaja Hari Singh who initially was thinking of independence. But then the angry Pakistanis attacked, which made the Maharaja choose India over Pakistan7. The Pakistanis still were able to take over half of Kashmir anyway.
Present-day Kashmir - Geography
Currently, Kashmir can be roughly divided into three parts. The west, which is predominantly Muslim, is governed by the Pakistanis, although the region has named itself Azad Kashmir (which literally means 'Free Kashmir'). The extreme east of the region, known as Ladakh, is controlled by China because of the predominantly-Buddhist population. China has also been in wars over the disputed territory with the Indians and Pakistanis. The rest of Kashmir is controlled by the Indian forces. This part of Kashmir consists of two areas, namely Jammu and the Valley of Kashmir. Jammu is a mostly-Hindu area, while the Kashmir Valley is dominated by the Muslim population.
The Viewpoints and The Splitting Lines
Today the region - from the viewpoint of the United States and other western countries - is a disputed territory. India, on the other hand, views everything east of the UN ceasefire line as theirs, and Pakistan views everything west of the line as theirs. The Chinese have claimed the area of Ladakh. India also half-heartedly makes claims for that area. But since the Indians did not put much force in their claim over the area of Ladakh, China has had the fewest problems in acquiring their land.
The Indo-Pakistan Wars And The JKLF
The Indo-Pakistan War of 1947-48 and the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965 were directly over the issue of Kashmir. During these two wars, the Kashmiri people sided with India. But lately this view is changing for the Kashmiris. The JKLF (Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front) has become one of the prominent problems that India and Pakistan both are facing. The JKLF and other organisations like it have turned to terrorism to try to get the Indian and Pakistani armies to withdraw. They do not want to become part of Pakistan, India or China. They want to be independent, calling themselves the Switzerland of Asia. They do not like the Indians because of the tyranny that its rulers like Maharaja Gulab Singh had brought. They do not like the Pakistanis because of their injustice as well8.
Before 1989, India and Pakistan fought over Kashmir. Since late 1989, it is Kashmiris who have done the fighting, India that has fought against them and Pakistan that has fuelled the fire. Over time, insurgency has alternately strengthened and weakened … The main problem in the Kashmir Valley is not militancy but the people's discontent and their demand for freedom.
Paula R Newberg
The Kashmiris are tired of the continued fighting between the two countries over their territory. Kashmir has its own opinion yet the three countries with the claim never ask Kashmir for it. The Kashmiris invite the terrorism that is taking place in Kashmir in the hopes that it may lead to freedom for their people. Another quote that would show this better from Ms Newberg is:
Although the Indian Government may be able to wear down the insurgency, it cannot obliterate the sentiments that have propelled many Kashmiris to support the insurgency — and the rest to tolerate its effects — for more than five years.
Paula R Newberg
What was more surprising to find was the fact that even the Hindu residents of Kashmir did not want the Indian government. Although an actual plebiscite was never held for numerous reasons, the Kashmiri sentiment was clear with their support of the terrorist organisations. Not only do the terrorist organisations9 target the soldiers stationed at Kashmir, but the Kashmiris themselves do as well10.
To conclude the Kashmir chapter, let us discuss a couple of possible solutions to the problem. Kashmir wants independence. Pakistan, India and China are not willing to grant this freedom. Solutions:
An external force comes in to settle the dispute with brute force
Further UN intervention and peace talks
This approach has many risks involved which make it all but impossible. External intervention might cause resentment from the three occupying countries, who all have full nuclear capabilities11. This could lead to a Third World War.
Since this method is more peaceful, it's viewed the most favourably. United Nations forces have been supervising a ceasefire between India and Pakistan in the Kashmir region. Since then, there have been fewer confrontations between the two countries. But the main threat doesn't come from a national attack but rather from the terrorists that have encamped themselves in the region. A cooperative effort by both countries to remove this threat might result in a possible solution.
Since the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York on 11 September, 2001, relations between India and Pakistan have improved; there is less enmity between them. However, this has not affected the Kashmir issue much. After all, Pakistani President Musharraf doesn't have widespread support in Pakistan. Any treaties or negotiations that come out of his office usually result in public disapproval. A peace treaty might very well be overturned by his own people. Kashmir, on the other hand, seems to want independence along with peace. Only time can tell what becomes of this issue.
This has slowly become one of the most depressing stories of our history.
References and Further Reading
- Jammu & Kashmir Basic Facts. Adaab… N/A. 8 December, 2001.
- Ganguly, Sumit. The Crisis in Kashmir: Portents of War, Hopes of Peace. New York: Woodrow Wilson Press, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997.
- Kadian, Rajesh. The Kashmir Tangle: Issues And Options. Boulder: Westview Press, 1993.
- Margolis, Eric S. War at the Top of the World: The Struggle for Afghanistan, Kashmir, and Tibet. New York: Routledge, 2000.
- Newberg, Paula R. Double Betrayal: Repression and Insurgency in Kashmir. Washington DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1995.
- Rahman, Mushtaqur. Divided Kashmir: Old Problems, New Opportunities for India, Pakistan, and the Kashmiri People. London: Lynn Rienner Publishers, 1996.
- Schofield, Victoria. Kashmir in Conflict: India, Pakistan and the Unending War. New York: I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd, 2000.
- Tatla, Darshan S. The Sikh Diaspora: The Search for Statehood. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1999.
- Wolpert, Stanley. A New History of India: Sixth Edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.