On August 8, 2019, Kashmir has found itself once again in the limelight with India revoking Article 370 from its constitution which had previously granted special status to the state of Jammu & Kashmir.
However, with a long and complex history of conflicts it is certainly not the first time Kashmir has found itself making headlines for all the wrong reasons.
The conflict in Kashmir stretches its roots back to 1947. In the aftermath of the Second World War, Britain, once the largest imperial power, found it increasingly difficult to control its former colonies, for she was now bankrupt.
After strong advocacy from the Muslim League, the British were handed the responsibility of dividing a previously united nation. This led to the partition of India.
The princely states suddenly found themselves in a dilemma. In theory, they could either join India, Pakistan or opt to remain independent. Most ended up joining the Dominion of India.
The princely state of Jammu and Kashmir had been under the rule of the Dogra dynasty for almost a century. Maharaja Hari Singh probably had to make the toughest decision of any ruler among the princely states. Due to its geographic location it had the choice to join either India or Pakistan. However being a Hindu leader of a Muslim majority state had compelled him to seek independence.
The Maharaja would soon find himself disappointed. Due to high taxations the Muslim subjects in the Poonch region began a massive uprising. Pakistani Pashtun tribesmen began backing the rebels.
The region was well known for its warriors and thousands of them even went on to serve the British Indian Army during the Second World War. Many of them had retained their arms even as the war ended.
The tribal rebels backed by Pakistani attacked Kashmir and advanced on the Maharaja’s capital Srinagar. In the end of October 1947, the Maharaja began to realize he could not reverse the advance of the invaders and thus turned to India for military assistance.
The Governor-General of India at that time, Mountbatten agreed to help on condition that the Maharaja would have to compromise on independence and sign the Instrument of Accession, legally incorporating Jammu and Kashmir in the Dominion of India.
The Maharaja signed the Instrument of Accession on the 26th of October. Till this day, 26th of October is annually celebrated in India as Accession Day.
India was quick to respond by sending its armed forces to fight against the Pakistani-backed forces. Within two months of achieving independence the two new nations found themselves fighting an undeclared war.
During the war, the Prime Minister of India at that time, Jawaharlal Nehru promised a referendum to the people of Kashmir in regards to deciding their own political future.
India on the 1st of January referred to the United Nations to resolve the dispute. On 13th of August in the same year a resolution was passed asking both countries to remove troops and a ceasefire was agreed upon.
The referendum was to be held when both countries completed withdrawing their troops. Neither India nor Pakistan completely withdrew their troops and the referendum never took place. The ceasefire line would end up becoming the de facto border of Kashmir splitting it between Indian and Pakistani administered areas.
On January 5, 1949, Indian constituent assembly adopted Article 370 which would limit the central government’s role in running Kashmir except in defense, communication and foreign affairs.
Kashmir would get caught up in the crossfire in 1965 which would come to be known as Second Indo-Pakistani war. Much like the first war this would come to a United Nations-mandated ceasefire. Two years later the leaders of the two nations met in Tashkent and no permanent territorial changes took place.
In 1971, the regional rivals once again found themselves at odds. However, this time it centered around East Pakistan (later Bangladesh) and it was a decisive victory for India as it not only successfully assisted Bangladesh in its fight for independence it also captured a significant portion of Pakistani Administered Kashmir. These changes were also temporary as on 1972 the two nations signed the Simla agreement with India returning the captured land. The Line of Control was designated from the ceasefire line formed in 1949.
But the year 1999 saw another conflict centered around Kashmir at the Kargil district in Indian Administered Kashmir. Due to international pressure Pakistan soon found itself recalling its troops and no territorial change took place. The conflict came to be known as the Kargil War.
And now with the scrapping of the special status of Kashmir, the two nations have once again been embroiled in fresh tension.