An Issue from the Past
Since 1947, India and Pakistan have been violently battling over Kashmir, a region located between both countries, but in recent years has been considered a part of Northern India. The ongoing battle stems from the time of British rule when both countries were united under the name of India. During this time, Britain divided India into 565 princely states, one of which was Jammu and Kashmir.
Independence from Britain created two separate countries, India and Pakistan. During the separation process, each of the aforementioned princely states had the option of choosing which they would prefer to be a part of. One unique case was presented in Kashmir, as the ruler Maharaja Hari Singh was conflicted about what to choose due to the division within his state. Ultimately, he decided to accede to India due to the Hindu majority after receiving threats from the Pakistani militants. Once it joined India, Article 370, which granted “near-autonomous authority to the state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K),” was created for persuasion reasons. However, shortly after the decision was made, Pakistan began to fight to get Kashmir, of which 67% of people are Muslim, on its side. In response to Pakistan's actions, India strengthened its rule and took many other measures to which there has been almost a “tug of war” situation in the area.
Kashmir, a beautiful Himalayan region abundant in green valleys, has been continually fought over by India and Pakistan for many years now. Currently, India has removed the provisions of Article 370, which had allowed Jammu and Kashmir Assembly to enact laws and prevent outsiders to settle and own land in the territory. But what does this really mean? To the Kashmiris, it seems that “Article 370 was their only link with India and it was broken without even consulting them.” The feelings of the Kashmiris show that they feel as if their right to freely govern themselves has been taken away. India’s decision to take away Article 370 came from Home Minister Amit Shah, who tweeted that the decision was made to pay tribute to all the fallen soldiers.
The true significance lies in the fact that Kashmir was promised its autonomy since India and Pakistan have never been able to truly settle which country or what rules Kashmir has to follow. India taking away the Article signifies that it is using its absolute control and has decided to pursue Modi’s Hindu nationalist agenda by forcing Kashmir a part of India.
Tweet by Amit Shah, Home Minister of India
In addition to taking away Article 370, India has implemented a strong military presence in Kashmir. On August 5, 2019, India made the announcement to revoke Article 370, effectively splitting Kashmir into two regions and increasing regulation and military presence in the area. Having hundreds of thousands of soldiers in the area, India has recently imposed a military lockdown and cut off communication in Kashmir. The people of Kashmir believe that “it is a majoritarian India trampling down on [their] rights and freedoms.”
In addition to Indian attacks on the region, Pakistanis have also been targeting the Indian-controlled areas. The largest attack in the past three decades, resulting in the death of 40 soldiers, came from the Pakistan side of the issue in February 2019. In response, India, which was focusing on its elections at the time, gained publicity for Modi’s election which ultimately helped him gain political leverage. The attacks during the time caused India to increase “its grip on Kashmir.” The attacks between both nuclear-armed neighbors have heightened the risk of another more deadly war. In recent years, there has been an increase in violence in the Kashmir region.
Currently, as India has cut off communication and tightened military presence in Kashmir, Pakistan announced that it will downgrade diplomatic ties and halted rade with India, in hopes of hurting its economy. The Pakistani army has also warned that “it will ‘go to any extent’ to fight the changes, to remain vigilant.” The increased threats and hostility between both countries have put those in Kashmir in increased danger.
Imran Khan, Pakistan's Home Minister, went to the Pakistan controlled area of Kashmir shortly after India’s decision to remove Article 370 on August 5, 2019. Khan assured the Kashmiris that Pakistan stands with them, further increasing its hostility towards India. In addition, Khan has asked the United National Security Council “to meet over India’s actions in Kashmir.” Opposing this action, Modi has said recently that India’s actions in Kashmir will only reduce violence in the long term. In this case, both sides seem to believe that each of their actions is justified in their own way, but are unable to reach a peaceful resolution.
Many in Pakistan and Kashmir have also begun protesting. The most recent protest happened as Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered an Independence Day speech in which he spoke of India’s actions in Kashmir. Only five days ago on Eid, protesters swept the streets of Kashmir, and at times the protests would turn violent as multiple stampedes broke out. The main message to be conveyed through the protests by Pakistanis is that it will fight relentlessly against India to gain complete control over Kashmir.
What This Means Now
The effects of the “tug of war” over Kashmir have been increasingly portrayed in the media, but what is implicitly disregarded is the damage that has been done to Kashmiri citizens. Currently, the world is watching as nuclear-armed India and Pakistan approach war over Kashmir. Citizens fear the use of nuclear power in the region as both sides of the conflict get more hostile towards one another. Those in Kashmir wish to become independent and govern themselves as they once were able to through the use of Article 370; however, this goal seems unattainable now as the two powers, India and Pakistan, are resorting to warfare as their next level of conflict. With the world anticipating the next moves by India and Pakistan, the media reporting on the conflict, and the citizens of India, Pakistan, and Kashmir living in fear, everyone wishes for a peaceful end to the conflict.