While the vast majority of articles published at Balanced Achievement are subjective in nature, there are particular instances when we aim to present information in a completely objective way. In situations that are marred by violence and hostility, such as the Kashmir Conflict, our only goal is to promote awareness, the rights of humans, and peaceful resolutions. When reporting about violent spiritually infused situations, we strive to report unbiasedly while telling both sides of the story.
It was in 1947 when the Subcontinent of India, led by Mahatma Gandhi, gained independence from the British Raj and separated into two sovereign nations. August 15th, of that year, marks the date that India and Pakistan formally became independent of one another. Since the separation, which was influenced by the religious beliefs of Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs, India-Pakistan relations have remained on shaky ground at best. One particular disagreement between the two countries revolves around the ownership rights of a northern territory known as Kashmir.
Unfortunately for the people of Kashmir, tension amongst Muslims, Hindus, and separatist militias has been a hallmark of what is one of the world’s most dangerous conflict situations. Recently, the Kashmir conflict has made headlines for violence and protests stemming from the killing of a separatist leader on July 8th, 2016. Within the past month, the region has seen an increase in violence, media censorship, a nightly curfew, and a call for the United Nations to intervene.
The History of The Kashmir Conflict:
The India partition of 1947, which marked the formal division of Pakistan and India, was much more complex than one may assume. At the time, there were over 600 unallied states, operating under the rule of various royal families, within the two countries. When the decision was made to divide India and Pakistan, the governing princes of these states were hypothetically given the option to align themselves with either nation. Citizens residing in these sovereignties, however, weren’t going to let their fate be determined by one family, especially after the greater nation had just gained independence from the British Raj.
The independent state of Kashmir was led by a Hindu prince named Maharaja Hari Singh, who was faced with an especially tough decision. While Hari Singh’s religious beliefs would have aligned him with India, the citizens of his state were overwhelmingly Muslim. Initially, Singh chose to remain neutral of both India and Pakistan, but after a number of Muslim tribesmen came to forcefully sway his decision in 1947, he was forced to flee into India. After pleading his case for military assistance with the Indian government, Hari Singh made the decision to formally join the Indian Union which sparked the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947.
The first war fought over the Kashmir province lasted 14 months before a ceasefire was agreed upon on January 1st, 1949, with 65% of the territory under Indian control and 35% under Pakistani control. Citizens were told that a referendum would take place to determine Kashmir’s alliance, but still today there hasn’t been a vote and the de-facto border remains the Line of Control (LOC).
Since the first war of the Kashmir conflict, there has been a reoccurring theme of oppression, violence, and war in the region. The second Indo-Pakistani War took place in 1965, the third Indo-Pakistani War took place in 1971, and the late 80s marked the start of the regions most deadly period of violence. It is reported that since 1989, at least 70,000 people have been killed while another 8,000 remain missing.
Numerous attempts to bring peace and resolution to the region have failed to produce any meaningful results. For example, the 1947 agreement to hold a referendum to determine Kashmir’s future never took place, the Tashkent Declaration of 1966 aimed to bring peace and diplomacy to the region with little success, and the Simla Agreement of 1972 failed to provide the peaceful resolution it was supposed to supply.
Today, it is estimated that nearly 80% of citizens who reside with the Kashmir territories associate themselves with the Muslim religion. Within the Indian controlled territory there are roughly 12 million citizens (75% Muslim), and within the Pakistani controlled areas there are around 6.5 million citizens (99% Muslim).
The Indian and Pakistani Arguments:
Citizens who live within the Kashmir borders have differentiating views about how they would like the nearly 70-year conflict to end. There is a portion of the population that prefers to align with Pakistan, a portion that wishes for association with India, and still another portion that wants independence from both. Insight on Conflict, a nonprofit website dedicated to human rights and peaceful resolution, reports that nearly 43% of the population prefers independence. Their collective voice, however, is greatly drowned out by the opinions of both the Indian and Pakistani governments. Here are a few of the major debating points that each side holds about the Kashmir Conflict:
- Believes that the decision made by Maharaja Hari Singh to align with India in 1947 means that the territory is lawfully theirs.
- Is no longer in favor of a referendum because the people of Kashmir have willingly participated in past Indian elections.
- Attributes much of the regions violence to Pakistan’s supposed role in spreading anti-India sentiment throughout Kashmir, in addition to funding militia groups operating within Kashmir’s borders.
- Believes that the state should have aligned with Pakistan when the initial division occurred because Kashmir is comprised of a primarily Muslim demographic.
- Accuses India of purposefully discounting the 1947 U.N. agreement to hold a referendum.
- Points to continuous hostility, protest, and violence as clear indicators that the people of Kashmir do not wish to remain aligned with India.
On July 8th, 2016, a 22-year-old separatist leader named Burhan Muzaffar Wani was killed by Indian security forces in Anantnag, Jammu-Kashmir. Muzaffar Wani, who quickly climbed the ranks of the Hizbul Mujahideen militia, was considered to be the ‘poster-boy’ of the separatist organization. Indian security forces, however, considered him to be one of their biggest targets and previously put a reward of nearly $30,000 for his capture or killing. After being cornered and engaged in gun battle with India operatives, in the village of Kokernag, Muzaffar Wani was killed along with two other militants.
Upon hearing the news, other separatist leaders quickly called for protests within the Indian controlled area of Kashmir. In hopes of keeping the situation stable, the Indian government responded by proclaiming a temporary media censorship and instituted a statewide curfew. The killing of Muzaffar Wani and the subsequent governmental clampdown has resulted in violent protests throughout Kashmir, and as of August 5th, the death toll had climbed to 55 (with many more injured).
What Happens Next:
In response to the recent developments, Pakistan called upon the United Nations (UN) to investigate the killing and more thoroughly monitor the situation. Initially, a UN spokesperson told reporters that they would be watching the situation with the help of the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP). Now, however, the U.N. has backtracked on this statement and says that because the protests are taking place away from the Line of Control, which they will continue to monitor, the situation needs to be handled internally by India.
Over the past 69 years, the people of Kashmir, both Muslims and Hindus, have largely been subjected to violence and human rights violations. Thousands of people have lost their lives due to the Kashmir conflict, and unless the Indian and Pakistani governments decide to make the lives of Kashmir citizens a priority, many more will suffer a similar fate. Now is as good of a time as any for the two sides, along with Kashmir separatists leaders and the UN, to come together and work towards a peaceful resolution.