The Kashmir Cause
Why is Kashmir disputed?
The territory of Kashmir was hotly contested even before India and Pakistan won their independence from Britain in August 1947. Under the partition plan provided by the Indian Independence Act of 1947, Kashmir was free to accede to India or Pakistan. The Maharaja, Hari Singh, wanted to stay independent but eventually decided to accede to India, signing over key powers to the Indian Government – in return for military aid and a promised referendum. Since then, the territory has been the flashpoint for two of the three India-Pakistan wars: the first in 1947-8, the second in 1965. In 1999, India fought a brief but bitter conflict with Pakistani-backed forces who had infiltrated Indian-controlled territory in the Kargil area. In addition to the rival claims of Delhi and Islamabad to the territory, there has been a growing and often violent separatist movement fighting against Indian rule in Kashmir since 1989.
Is religion an issue?
Religion is an important aspect of the dispute. Partition in 1947 gave India’s Muslims a state of their own: Pakistan. So a common faith underpins Pakistan’s claims to Kashmir, where many areas are Muslim-dominated. The population of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir is over 60% Muslim, making it the only state within India where Muslims are in the majority.
What’s the UN involvement?
The UN has maintained a presence in the disputed area since 1949. Currently, the LoC is monitored by the UN Military Observer Group inIndia and Pakistan (Unmogip).
It is commanded by Major-General Hermann Loidolt of Austria. According to the UN, their mission is “to observe, to the extent possible, developments pertaining to the strict observance of the ceasefire of December 1971”.
The Freedom movement
There were several groups pursuing the rival claims to Kashmir.
Not all were armed, but since Muslim insurgency began in 1989, the number of armed separatists had grown from hundreds to thousands. The most prominent were the pro-Pakistani Hizbul Mujahideen. Islamabad denies providing them and others with logistical and material support. The Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) was the largest pro-independence group, but its influence is thought to have waned. Other groups have joined under the umbrella of the All-Party Hurriyat (Freedom) Conference, which campaigns peacefully for an end to India’s presence in Kashmir. Indian forces announced a unilateral ceasefire against militant groups in November 2000, but violence continued. Attempts to get talks going between the government and the separatist parties have foundered over separatist demands that Pakistan should be included in any dialogue. India says there can be no discussion involving Pakistan because it sponsors violence in Kashmir. India and Pakistan failed to narrow their differences over Kashmir at a summit in the Indian city of Agra in July 2001.
Since then, they have continued to trade accusations and outside attempts to get them to resolve their differences have made no headway.
A new generation of the Kashmiri youth has assumed the mantle of struggle and their defiance of repressive policies of the Indian forces is gradually forcing New Delhi to rethink its failed Kashmir policy.
The mass protests in Kashmir have redefined the Kashmir is