Kashmir is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. The Mughals, who once ruled the Indian Subcontinent, called it a ‘Paradise on Earth’. Throughout its colourful history, it has played host to a vast array of cultures and religions, coupled with a scenery like no other.
However, in more recent history, Kashmir has been dogged by a vicious territorial dispute mainly between India and Pakistan.
In this article will be covering a few points.
Jammu and Kashmir has a predominantly Muslim population.
Proponents of the argument that Pakistan was a nation founded for all Muslims living under what was then British rule would argue that Kashmir is rightfully theirs. After all, all other Muslim majority regions were ceded to Pakistan.
However, like most longstanding disputes, it’s a lot more complicated than that.
Jammu, which is the southern region of the disputed territory, has a Hindu majority (66%), while the Kashmir valley is almost exclusively Muslim (95%). A division on religious lines would be would not only be hard to broker diplomatically, but hard to do on a geographical level given the sheer diversity of peoples living in these regions. It should also be noted that the Hindu Kashmiri Pandits were forcefully made to leave their homeland due to radical Islamist terrorists. Would it be fair to grant a plebiscite despite the forced displacement of these people?
Kashmir was legally conceded to India.
In 1947, Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession, which formally acceded Kashmir as part of the Dominion of India. Pro-Pakistani militias violated this and seized what is now known as Azad Kashmir, an autonomous region of Pakistan. This is not the only time that Pakistan has illegally invaded Kashmir, with its most recent declaration of war sparking international an outcry in opposition of their acts.
Last year’s election in Kashmir saw a voter turnout exceeding 65%.
In fact, the party with the most votes was the BJP, a nationalist party which advocates the revocation of Article 370, which gives Kashmir special status. In spite of this, Kashmiris voted for them. This can only tell us that the people of Kashmir wish to assimilate fully into India. Despite pleas from separatist groups, the people of Kashmir voted with more vigour than most other Indian states.
Democracy is as vibrant as ever in Kashmir and this shows us Kashmir is about more than simply religion. It is about ideology. It is a choice between living in a tolerant secular society or an Islamic Republic where Sharia is the law of the land. There are as many Muslims living in India as there are in Pakistan so the argument that the people of Kashmir are having to decide which nation they join simply on religious grounds is a misguided one.
I am still a firm believer in dialogue between India and Pakistan when it comes to securing Kashmiris a stable and successful future. However, when terrorist organisations decide that ‘waging jihad‘ on India is a good idea, I become skeptical whether these talks will amount to much.
At the end of the day, it is the mandate of the people that matters. And hopefully a resolution of some sort is achieved soon, however unlikely that may be.