In August 1947, the partition of the Indian sub-continent resulted in the formation of India and Pakistan. The conflict started soon after as a dispute over the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Due to its location, Kashmir could choose to join either India or Pakistan. The ruler of Kashmir, Maharaja Hari Singh was unable to pledge his allegiance to any of the nations, following which he decided to remain neutral. His attempts dashed when Pakistani tribesmen attacked the capital city of Srinagar.
Hari Singh fled to India appealing for military assistance from the Indian Government and signed the Instrument of Accession on October 26, 1947, ‘temporarily’ ceding Kashmir to India.
1947-48 saw India and Pakistan fighting their first territorial war known as the Indo-Pakistan War of 1947, over the region. Observing a rapid armed advancement from Pakistan, India cited the United Nations to mediate the dispute on January 1, 1948.
The UN directed Pakistan to remove its troops and India to withdraw the bulk of its forces. A ‘free and fair’ plebiscite was suggested wherein the Kashmiri people were to decide their future. The plebiscite failed, as Pakistan refused to withdraw its forces from Pakistan-held Kashmir. Consequently, the Indo-Pak relations suffered a major setback amidst the Cold War.
On January 1, 1949, a ceasefire was agreed, putting 65% of the territory under India’s control and the remainder with Pakistan. The move was intended to be temporary but the ‘Line of Control’ (LOC) remains the de facto border between the two nations till date.
The Military Standoff
The UN resolution in 1948 accepted India’s stand regarding all outstanding issues between India and Pakistan. The year 1956 saw the Constituent Assembly validating the accession of the state to India amidst constant protest from Pakistan. Long years of repressed aggression subsequently ended in a brief war between India and Pakistan in 1965. The ceasefire ended and the Tashkent Agreement (a declaration of peace) was signed as a resolution of the war on January 10, 1966.
The gloom continued to descend
Another war from 1971-72 between the two countries ended in defeat for Pakistan and the formation of the independent nation of Bangladesh. The Simla Agreement of 1972 was signed with both sides pledging to settle their differences through negotiations.
An Era of insurgency
Disputed state elections in Jammu & Kashmir pushed pro-independence insurgency in the state in 1987. India accused Pakistan of fostering insurgency by dispatching radical fighters across the LOC, a claim Pakistan denied.
The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) was imposed in the state in 1990, to counter the escalation of insurgency.
The 1990s saw violence intensifying in Kashmir. Islamic Militants carried out ethnic cleansing in the Valley state, terrorizing non-Muslims, particularly Kashmiri Pundits. The bloodshed caused large numbers of people to flee and seek shelter in the State of Jammu.
The Indian Military resorted to repression against the blazing terrorism, foreign infiltration, and the domestic insurgency in the state. The Army’s stance on the situation is debated with grave allegations of human rights abuses from Pakistan.
Stepping into the 21st century
India has continued to assert its sovereignty or rights over the entire region of Kashmir, while Pakistan has maintained that it is a disputed territory. It argues that the status quo cannot be considered as a solution and further insists on a continuous UN-sponsored plebiscite. Unofficially, the Pakistani leadership has indicated that they would be willing to accept alternatives such as a demilitarized Kashmir, if sovereignty of Azad (Free) Kashmir was to be extended over the Kashmir valley. In 2005, Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf, as well as other Pakistani leaders, sought to resolve the Kashmir issue through the Chenab Formula road map. The formula proposed assigning Ladakh to India, Gilgit-Baltistan to Pakistan and a plebiscite in the Kashmir Valley, splitting Jammu to two-halves. The proposition was never implemented and the conflict aggravated between the two nations.
Increasing controversies of alleged atrocities by the India Army amidst a perpetual state of conflict brought normal lives to a standstill in the valley every now and then.
The 2010 Kashmir saw major unrest with series of protests in the Muslim majority Kashmir Valley in Jammu and Kashmir, starting June 2010. These protests involved the ‘Quit Jammu Kashmir Movement’ launched by the Hurriyat Conference led by separatist leaders, who had called for the complete demilitarization of Jammu and Kashmir. The All Parties Hurriyat Conference made this call to protest, once again citing human rights abuses by Indian troops.
March 2015 brought the Bharatiya Janta Party (the ruling party in India) to be sworn in Kashmir for the first time in coalition with the local People’s Democratic Party. The tensions soon escalated, with the Muslim separatist leader’s staging a violent protest in Kashmir over the enforcement of the Beef Ban in September 2015. The state has ever since been in turmoil.
July 2016 spelled doom for the valley when the killing of Burhan Wani, a popular militant and top commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen group by the security forces sparked violent protests. The house where the infamous militant was killed was set ablaze by a mob on suspicion that the residents had tipped-off the security forces about Burhan. Subsequently, a curfew was imposed in all the districts of Kashmir on July 15 and mobile phone networks were suspended. It was one of the most harrowing times for the valley with the curfew lifting on August 31, 2016 only to lead to the most violent era faced by the residents of the State.
A series of more serious conflicts began with the Uri attack in 2016 by alleged terrorist forces operating with funding and backing from Pakistan. The aggravation was met with retaliation and attack from India, with the county deciding to trespass Pakistan’s air space. The developments escalated the simmering tensions between the nations and started the 2019 India-Pakistan standoff.
Scrapping the Article 370
In August 2019, Home Minister Amit Shah of India read out a presidential notification that stated the decision to scrap the contentious Article 370 of the constitution that gave a measure of autonomy to the Muslim-majority Himalayan. The decision came to effect “at once” along with the bifurcation of the state into two Union Territories- Jammu and Kashmir.
Article 370 was nullified through a resolution with 351 members voting in support and 72 against and one abstaining, after a debate that exposed divisions within the Opposition.
The Centre’s move to revoke Article 370 has not just gone down as one of the most significant initiatives to change a provision of the Constitution, but also as a move towards putting a long-standing conflict to sleep. The validity of the said article has been questioned time and again.
The revocation has also been met with considerate criticism from certain legal experts citing “practical difficulties” associated with the move. The separatists and voices from Pakistan have emerged claiming a metaphorical “loss of identity” after the parliamentary move.
“With massive security deployed in the valley and prohibitory orders clamped across the state, the residents are gradually returning to their normal lives. The hope for normalcy reigns as people of Kashmir along with India revels in the glory of the historic move.” (A personal comment of the author, The Rational Daily does not purport to share the same views in any manner)