Let’s start from where it all began –
Kashmir as a Princely state –
During the colonial era, Kashmir became a princely state as Maharaja Gulab Singh of Dogra Dynasty signed a ‘Treaty of Amritsar’ with the British East India Company in 1846 and paid a sum of Rs 75 Lakhs to the company in exchange of Kashmir and few other areas. Later the dominion of Maharaja Gulab Singh was expanded by his successors to northern areas like Ladakh, Baltistan, Gilgit, Hunza and Yagistan.
Jammu and Kashmir , from 1846 until 1947, remained a princely state but like many other princely states in India, J&K enjoyed only partial autonomy and the real power was still with the British.
Kashmir After Partition of India –
The princely states of India were given a choice after partition to either merge with India or Pakistan or to stay independent. The ruler of Kashmir during 1947 was Maharaja Hari Singh, the great grandson of Maharaja Gulab Singh. Hari Singh was a Hindu ruler who ruled over a Muslim majority state of Kashmir. He did not wish to merge with either India or Pakistan.
Hari Singh tried to negotiate with India and Pakistan to have an independent status for his state. He offered a proposal of Standstill Agreement to both the Dominion, however, a still pending final decision on State’s accession.
What was Kashmiri People’s Call ?
Kashmiri people took part extensively in Indian Nationalist Movements. They not only wanted independence from the British but also wanted a democratic set up for the state over the present monarchy. Jammu and Kashmir was an epitome of secular state with the history of Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh rule.
India in 1947 suggested to conduct a referendum to know the exact call of the Kashmiri people. The people of Kashmir cherished its famous leader Sheikh Abdullah who shared common values with India like Secularism, Brotherhood, Democracy and Nationalism. India was confident to win the referendum. However, when Pakistan attacked Kashmir in October 1947, new circumstances and challenges emerged and the exact aspirations of the Kashmiris were never known as the referendum then was never conducted.
Pakistan Violated The Standstill Agreement –
Albeit Pakistan nodded for the standstill agreement with Maharaja Hari Singh, its eyes were still on Jammu & Kashmir. They violated the agreement by sponsoring tribal terrors from across the border into the princely state which led to a massive war hysteria among the people of J&K.
Hari Singh then appealed to India for help and India assured help on condition of signing the Instrument Of Accession with India. He signed the Instrument of Accession which made Jammu & Kashmir officially a part of the Republic of India.
As soon as the document was signed, the Indian Armed Forced took over the responsibility to fight back Pakistan supported tribal assaults taking place in the entire state. The Indian forced successfully drove out Pak sponsored militants, however, one part of Kashmir was captured by the Pak state and they declared it as ‘Azad Kashmir’ and then eventually coined the term ‘India Occupied Kashmir’ which is actually what is present day’s ‘Pakistan Occupied Kashmir
Nehru Dragged The UN in Picture –
On 1st January 1948, India referred the dispute to the United Nations Security Council. The UN however came out with a resolution which was not binding on India or Pakistan, on 21st April, 1948.
Here’s what the UN Resolution stated –
1) Pakistan is the aggressor in the dispute.
2) Pakistan has to vacate the occupied territory and handover the state to India.
3) India has to only deploy as much forces as is required to maintain law and order of the state.
4) A referendum is to be conducted by India in the state.
Why no referendum was conducted yet ?
Pakistan asked for time to vacate the territory but they never actually tried to vacate and since nearly one-third of the state was occupied by Pakistan, a fair referendum was not possible.
The Extended Disputes –
Ever since 1947, Jammu and Kashmir remained a major issue of conflict between India and Pakistan and also to some extent between India and China. Pakistan has always claimed that Kashmir Valley should be a part of Pakistan and this staunch claim resulted in four wars between India and Pakistan – 1947, 1965, 1971, and 1999. The Chinese also started to claim some parts of the eastern Kashmir (Aksai Chin) and the matter worsened after Pakistan ceded Sakcham Valley to the Chinese.
Growing Trust Deficit –
By 1989, the state came under the grip of militant movement who got moral and financial assistance from Pakistan. The state which earlier had a lot many Hindu population started to dwindle and the terrorists drove out almost all the Hindus from the valley which to some extent was also a master plan to manipulate any future referendums in the state.
India imposed Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) in Jammu & Kashmir. Kashmir frequently witnessed violence, curfew, stone-pelting, and firing between the troops of India and Pakistan across Line of Control (LoC). Thousands of soldiers, civilians, and militants have been killed till now.
Situation Now –
Even though many elections took place in J&K, the state has not been able to achieve any normalcy. In 1996, The National Conference led by Farooq Abdullah came to power with a demand for regional autonomy of the J&K state as before.
For the first time in 2002, J&K experienced free and fair election in which The National Conference was replaced by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in coalition with the Congress government.
In 2015, India’s ruling party BJP came into coalition with the PDP with latter’s Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. Later his daughter Mehbooba Mufti took over as the Chief Minister after her father’s death, however the coalition with the BJP under Mehbooba Mufti as the Chief Minister did not last for long.
India sticks to no mediation with the UN or any other third party stand today. India also stresses on No Referendum unless Pakistan gives back PoK (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir) to India as what was the situation in 1947.
The separatists emerged from the state who demand a separate Kashmiri Nation, independent from India and Pakistan. There’s also a separate strand of people who demand greater autonomy within the Union of India. However, the exact stand of the Kashmiris remain hidden as the state still awaits a fair referendum.
Jammu and Kashmir is a living example of social pluralism and politics. Unfortunately, from the perspective of the youth of Kashmir, there is a growing trust-deficit. It’s a hard reality that Jammu and Kashmir never functioned like other Indian states since its accession to India. It had been given higher autonomy initially which eventually got eroded in practice with political distresses and separatist violence.
Kashmir was and still is an integral part of India. It has a plural and secular culture which tallies with what India has always stood for. Urgent steps should be taken to bridge the gaps of trust deficit in the minds of Kashmiri youth. All Kashmiris should get the due share in the growth story of India and more and more sense of involvement with the Republic of India should be promoted among them so that like all other states in India, Kashmiri people should also be able to see themselves as Indians first.