73 years have passed since the conflict started which led to deep-rooted hatred and wars between two nations with the suffering of millions of people belonging to Kashmir. Since 1947, Kashmir, a territory with a Muslim majority has conflicted because India and Pakistan have been embroiled over claiming it. The 86,000-square-mile, mountainous region was once a princely state and now both India and Pakistan claim it.
The origins of the rivalry lie in the common colonial history of the countries. Britain dominated most of Indian’s land, they initially began ruling through the British East India Company, then explicitly from the British monarchy, from the 17th to the 20th century. Over time, Britain’s control over its empire deteriorated, and the slipping rule of the crown was challenged by an increasing fascist party.
Though it feared a civil war between the Hindu majority of India and the Muslim minority, Britain experienced rising pressure to offer its colonization independence. Parliament agreed after World War II that British rule in India could end by 1948. “It is high time that the British Government applied their mind definitely to the division of India and the establishment of Pakistan and Hindustan, which means freedom for both” Jinnah said in 1945.
As religious uprisings erupted in British India, leaving millions dead, British and Indian representatives (Muslims and Hindus) decided to sincerely discuss the division of the subcontinent based on their belief system. Therefore, the autonomous, Majority Muslim nation of Pakistan was founded in 1947 on August 14. The next day the autonomous Hindu-majority nation of India followed.
There at the moment, Maharaja Singh, a Hindu, controlled the princely Kashmir valley, which was a Muslim Majority. Singh wished freedom for Kashmir, despite many of the princely states which associated themselves with one state or the other. The maharaja agreed to sign a standstill contract with Pakistan to avoid pressure to join either new state, allowing Kashmir’s citizens to continue traveling and trading with the new world. A similar standstill contract with the princely state was not agreed upon by India.
The government of Pakistan urged Kashmir to join it as partition-related unrest erupted throughout the two new states. Pro-Pakistani rebels, financed by Pakistan, took over much of western Kashmir and in September 1947, Pashtun tribesmen crossed the frontier from Pakistan to Kashmir. Singh asked India to help stave off the intrusion, but India answered that in order to obtain military aid, Kashmir would have to join India and thereby become part of the new nation.
In October 1947, Singh accepted and agreed to sign the Instrument of Accession, a document that merged Kashmir with the Dominion of India. later, Kashmir was granted special status within the Constitution of India — a status that meant that Kashmir would have liberty from all but telecommunications, international relations, and security.
The Maharaja’s catastrophic decision to unite Kashmir with India led to years of violence in the disputed territory, including two wars and a lengthy insurrection.
Following this on 5 August 2019, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government released a surprising executive order denying the state of Jammu and Kashmir of its independence.
After the declaration, the Indian authorities have also enforced an unparalleled shutdown in the area, closing down all channels of communication, banning mobility, and placing influential Kashmiri representatives under house arrest. Government officials have shut off internet links, cell phone networks, and even landlines, throwing Kashmir into an information black hole that makes it extremely difficult to see what was going on. Tens of thousands of additional Indian forces were mobilized, important Hindu pilgrimage was canceled, schools and universities were shut down, visitors were forced to leave, telecommunications and internet facilities were suspended, and provincial political leaders were put under house arrest.
The government’s decision to abolish Article 370 of India’s constitution, which provided the Muslim-majority region with its own bill of rights and freedom in all matters but foreign affairs, defense, and telecommunications, has undeniably been the most far-reaching political action in the contested region in the last 70 years. However, neither the decision of the Indian Parliament to enforce a direct rule from New Delhi nor its efforts to suppress the Kashmiri cries for independence and dignity are something new.
Worst of all on 5 August 2019, future generations will recall as yet another episode in Kashmir’s prolonged background of colonial oppression. At best, this new assault on the independence of a long-suffering people will indicate the start of an era of unparalleled rebellion and liberation for the Kashmiris.
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