Update on March 11, 2019: One of India’s own, Indian Airforce pilot Abhinandan Varthaman was on a mission around the border, when his fighter plane was shot, forcing him to bail out of the plane. He was kept in Pakistani custody for a few days before he was returned safely to India as a goodwill gesture. Things between the two countries have been relatively quiet since then.
On 14 February, 2019 in the Pulwama district of Kashmir, some radicals used violence to generate fear in the area. They attacked a military bus that was carrying Indian jawans, and managed to injure and kill many of them. A radical outfit in Pakistan has supposedly claimed responsibility for this horrible act. India is in mourning, and many people are furious over the attack. Sadly, this is not the first time that Kashmir has experienced violence.
So why are India and Pakistan fighting over Kashmir? Kashmir’s difficult story began in 1947, when India and Pakistan were partitioned by the British.
1947: Kashmir, because of its geographic location, could join either country. The state was ruled by a Hindu king Hari Singh but had a large Muslim population. For a while, the king stayed neutral and did not pick a side. However, in October 1947, tribesmen from Pakistan came over to Srinagar and were ready to battle for Kashmir. Hari Singh turned to the Indian forces for help and then chose to side with India. He signed the Instrument of Accession, making Kashmir a part of the country on 26 October, 1947. India then asked the United Nations to intervene, which they did by ordering Pakistan to withdraw their troops from the new Indian territory. After both sides had backed down, there was to be a ‘fair and free’ vote by the Kashmiri people to decide if they wanted to be with India, with Pakistan or to be an independent state. The UN Security Council said that this vote should take place “as soon as possible’, but it was never held.
1949: The fighting continued till 1949 after which a ceasefire was agreed upon. Kashmir was divided with 65% of the area under Indian control and the rest under Pakistani control. The arrangement was supposed to be a temporary one, but this Line Of Control slowly became the unofficial border.
Article 370: Ten years after Independence, Kashmir was formally made a part of India but it had special rights, e.g. Article 370 which states that only Kashmiris can buy land in the state. The Article has been debated often as many people think that it is against the Constitution.
1965: Another war began between the countries in 1965. A year later, Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and Pakistani President M Ayub Khan signed the Tashkent agreement in an attempt to stop the feuding. This agreement called for both sides to recall their troops from the area to maintain positions held before this, and for the relationship to be constructive and diplomatic.
1971: In 1971, a third war broke out when Indian troops supported the Independence movement in Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan). Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Pakistani President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto signed the Simla Agreement, which said that things should revert to what was decided in the Tashkent Agreement and that a peaceful solution to the problem of Kashmir’s future should be found.
1980s: Peace largely remained till the late 1980s. Then pro-Independence and/or pro-Pakistani groups began to terrorise the state. Groups like the JKLF (Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front), the All India Hurriyat Council, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizbul Mujahideen were some of the groups that carried out attacks in Kashmir against the Indian State. Thousands of innocent civilians’ lives were lost in the fighting during those years.
Kargil: A chance for peace seemed to be possible after Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee started the Delhi-Lahore-Delhi bus service in 1999. However, sadly it did not last long as firing across the Line of Control in Kargil resumed. Once again fighting commenced but ended in a month due to swift action; both sides had losses of life though.
What’s happening now? Incidents along the Line of Control continue to occur – sometimes more intensely, at other times it is relatively peaceful. Incidents such as Pulwama always create tension between the countries. India accuses Pakistan of sheltering the attackers and Pakistan denies this fact. As we were writing this article, India decided to strike back and attack a camp of radicals living in Pakistan just across the Kashmir Border. This has spiralled into a skirmish. Both countries have shot down airforce jets and captured pilots from the other side. Some people in India are proud that the government has shown that it will not tolerate violence. Another section is upset and sees this as election propaganda. Whatever the case, we hope the governments of both countries will show restraint and maturity to try to resolve this long-standing problem. All parties, especially the people of Kashmir, are watching eagerly, hoping that lasting peace can return to this beautiful land.
Written by: Pereena Lamba. Pereena is a freelance writer, editor and creative consultant . She is also co-author of Totally Mumbai.