Jammu & Kashmir, perhaps the biggest black dot on India’s foreign and domestic affairs. The violence in Kashmir seems to be at an all time high; but why is it so? Why is Jammu & Kashmir (Henceforth referred to as J&K) in such a situation? Why isn’t it like any other state of India? Let us find out.
In the month of August in 1947, two countries gained Independence. Republic of India and Islamic State of Pakistan. As well all know, the latter was formed only after the demands of a separate state of for muslims was made by Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s Muslim League, the demand resulted in independent India being divided into India and Pakistan, though not many thought that this event would shape the politics of the sub-continent in the coming years.
Both India and Pakistan consisted of two types of territories, the first type were the territories which were under direct control of the British. The second type were the princely states which were ruled by local Kings and Queens who had accepted the suzerainty of the British crown. When the British left India, the former would be absorbed by the respective governments (Indian or Pakistani). Now, the British suzerainty over the princely states would lapse when they (British) left India and they would be free to choose whether they wanted to remain Independent, join India or join Pakistan (You can read my article on “Challenges to India – Princely State Integration” for more information on the topic). One such princely state was J&K.
There are various reasons for the conflict between Indian and Pakistan in Kashmir, one being that if J&K did not go to Pakistan (Due to the muslim dominated population), then the two nation theory suggested by Jinnah would be undermined. Similarly, if J&K did not go to India, then the secular nature of the indian government would be undermined. Therefore it can be said that Kashmir would have played an important role in the foreign policy of both countries.
Another reason, J&K has regional and strategic importance as it borders four countries, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and China. The region acts as a gateway to all four countries.
J&K was ruled by Hari Singh Dogra, when the British rule ended; his Prime Minister, Ramachandra Kak convinced Hari Singh to neither to accede to India nor to Pakistan and remain independent to which the King readily agreed to. However, he did allow free movement of goods and people across his borders to both the countries. His dominion consisted of a district called Punj, which desired to be free of the Dogra rule and join Pakistan. In the year 1947, war broke out as thousands of tribesmen from the Punj district attacked Kashmir (Allegedly with the help of Pakistan). Hari Singh’s forces were under intense pressure, the tribesmen were about to reach Srinagar, along their way they had murdered hundreds of innocent people. In desperation to protect his people, Hari Singh Dogra agreed to accede to India in hopes of gaining military support. Indian troops were airlifted to Kashmir overnight and within a fortnight the Indian Army pushed the insurgents back to Muzzafarbad, due to winter the fighting had to stop and later U.N. intervention created the line of control.
Currently, parts of Kashmir are occupied by Pakistani forces, the region is termed as ‘Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.’ Another part of J&K called Aksai-Chin is occupied by China (Indo-China War of 1962, I will cover that in some other article) and of course the remaining region which was acceded to India, now a state, called as Jammu & Kashmir.
J&K was given special status under Article 370 of the Indian constitution, under which there are provisions such as,”Only those parts of Indian constitution will have effect on J&K which have been accepted by the Legislative Assembly of j&K.” Only three subjects were transferred to the Indian government, namely defence, foreign affairs and communication.Symbolic things like, J&K will have its own flag are also included in Article 370. This Article (Not this article, Article 370 mind you) makes Centre’s jurisdiction very limited in the region, which is one of the factors for inefficient policing by the Armed forces in the region. There are many arguments regarding Article 370, some say that it should be removed and allow complete integration of J&K into India, some say that J&K should be granted greater regional autonomy. Matters pertaining to Article 370 have led to, not just debates, but violence in the valley too. Also, Article 370 was supposed to be a temporary provision till matters settled down in the state, but of course that hasn’t been the case as violence is at an all time high.
The population is divided into three opinions, the first one wants complete independence from India and Pakistan, second one wants to remain with India and the third wants to join Pakistan. A referendum was supposed to be held to decide the future of the state but pre-conditions of a referendum have not been met in the state and the future remains undecided leading to an armed uprising of a separatist movement called “Hurriyat” who want to separate out from India (who have been allegedly supported by Pakistan”). The Central government implemented Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in the state which is considered to be controversial, you read the article about it in the hyperlink provided above.
Centre-J&K relations have never been very good, even though the BJP and PDP have an alliance in J&K, the strain in this unforseen alliance is evident.
The fate of Jammu & Kashmir remains very uncertain, thousands of people have died due to the violence. But the time for peaceful negotiations has come and gone. It is futile to discuss peace with a person who holds a sword, the Centre should now take a tough stand on the Kashmir issue and not deter from it, even if it means suffering political backlash from it. The same political will should be shown by the government like the one displayed during demonetization. Standing behind our Armed forces is also imperative, empower them and restore peace to the region and THEN hold a referendum to decide the future of the region. Even though the government has had to face a lot of criticism over the years, you cannot deny the people the opportunity to present their opinion on whether they want to remain with India or not and that’s why India should take the high road and display the true sense of democracy by allowing a referendum to happen after restoring peace.
There are many other domestic political factors which have contributed to this situation, I will cover those in another article, but this should give you a basic idea about the backgrounds and happenings in the state.