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  • Writer's pictureDurham Pro Bono Blog

Conflict In Kashmir

Disclaimer: The views expressed are that of the individual author. All rights are reserved to the original authors of the materials consulted, which are identified in the footnotes below.

South Asia is the most populous subcontinent in the world. It was also the most populous subcontinent in the world in 1947, when London lawyer Cyril Radcliffe, a man who had never been east of Paris, came to India, and in a short span of five weeks, divided a people. India was a mixed territory at the time, there were a couple of really small territories with the French and the Portuguese, a largely colonial British state based in Delhi and London, and some 565 princely states ruled by princes with a dizzying number of titles, amounting to about 40% of the total area, with ‘advice’ from a British Resident, the refusal to obey which could have the territory merged into the state apparatus, exalted suzerainties clad in gold and ivory. In his haste, or what some at the time said, democratic wisdom, Radcliffe left the princely states as independent territory, free to either choose the dominion of India, Pakistan, or remain independent.

One of these princely states, with a Hindu Maharaja and a 21- gun salute, was Kashmir in the North. Kashmir was a predominantly Muslim population with a sizeable Hindu and Buddhist population.

A scenic beauty, Khusrauthe- the world’s original Renaissance man- called Kashmir ‘paradise on earth.’

The land was once an independent kingdom, with the rule of the Mir dynasty, a Kashmiri Muslim family, which fell to the Mughals in the 1580s. It remained with the Mughals and their viziers till the 1750s, when the Durranis conquered it, before losing its control to the Sikhs under Ranjit Singh in 1820.

When the Sikhs finally lost to the British, a new kingdom was created, with a Hindu Dogra ruler- Maharaja Gulab Singh. The Maharajas led a small group of Hindu elite, a lot of who were awarded land grants, and a large population of Muslim peasantries, many of who operated as serfs. By the 1940s, the peasantry had been organised, hoping to seek a post-Independence Republic. The Maharaja, Hari Singh, was a devout Hindu and the population, though mainly devout Sunni Muslims, were not sold on the idea of a theocratic state and chose not to enter into either dominion- as is exhibited by the National Conference Records. For a very short period in time, Kashmir operated as an independent state.

In a new, independent state, the Maharaja established a government seating a former Hindu justice, Justice Mahajan as the Prime Minister. It was in the second half of 1947 that Kashmir was invaded by Pathan Tribesmen, aided by the new Pakistani State. In a terrible position, the Maharaja negotiated with India to help protect their borders. The Indian State agreed to help Kashmir, as far as Kashmir seceded into India.

It is understood that the history of Kashmir before 1947 would not be a topic that many would want to read when understanding the conflict between India and Pakistan. On the contrary, however, I believe it is extremely important to have a brief knowledge of Kashmir and the Kashmiri National Identity when trying to understand how it has been shackled by a modern-day colonial power. Regarding Kashmir, and its culture as an independent entity, is an important step in trying to understand why Kashmir deserves Independence.

Thus, a treaty of accession was drawn. Kashmir would keep its form of independent government, its flag, its constitution, and its penal code. It would have its own Prime Minister, and a constituent assembly independent of the one in India to make a constitution. What was also agreed was that the people of Kashmir would never be forced to accept any part of the Indian Constitution without the assent of the Constituent Assembly. Louis Mountbatten, who was the Indian Governor-General, expressed the wishes of the Nehru Government clearly- ‘it is my Government’s wish that as soon as law and order have been restored in Jammu and Kashmir and her soil cleared of the invader the question of the State’s accession should be settled by a reference to the people.’ Thence, Kashmir began its rule within India.

The question now remained- how and when would Kashmir be cleared of the invader to hold a plebiscite? Pakistan effectively controlled a third of the Kashmiri territory. UN Resolution 47 then established a new plan of action. Once demilitarised, Kashmir would be asked to decide whether it would want to remain independent or join either state.

Since its adoption, however, Kashmir has become the most militarised zone in the world, and the lack of demilitarisation negates the possibility of an UN-mandated plebiscite.

Since then, multiple conversations have almost been struck up about Kashmir. In 1957-8, the Union Home Minister, Govind Ballabh Pant made it clear that for him, and thus for the Indian State, Kashmir was an integral part of India, and the idea of a plebiscite, and thus an independent Kashmir, was ridiculous.

Mrs Indira Gandhi, when serving as Prime Minister, made it abundantly clear that Kashmir was Indian territory- the crown of India- as she put it, and nobody could take it from them. It must, however, be noted, that mainstream politicians in Kashmir and India were notoriously shy in terms of clearly supporting Kashmiri Freedom.

Today, Kashmir exists as different states in different nations. There is the state of Jammu and Kashmir, which includes the Ladakh Wazarat in India, the provinces of Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Kashmir in Pakistan, and the territory of Aksai Chin that China controls. The most significant chunk of the population is within India, most of them Muslim and residing in the valley. There have been calls for Independence since the very accession to India, leading to a depleting trust within the institutions of the Indian state. Multiple elections have been boycotted, and by 1987, Kashmiri trust in the Indian state was completely destroyed. Then came a series of the most terrible atrocities that could ever be recorded in human history.

A new governor, Jagmohan, was appointed to the state, to oversee the quelling of protest in Kashmir. Days after his taking over the office, Indian Paramilitary forces killed 160 people at the Gawkadal Bridge in Srinagar. Kashmiri youth were on the streets the next day, organising themselves into armed forces soon after. A reported 400,000 people followed onto the streets in the next few days, demanding a plebiscite.

Another important activity that took place – which has since shaped Kashmir - was the mass exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits. Sometime before, specifically at the end of 1989, some people were murdered, by the sectarian insurgency group JKLF- Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front- that killed amongst others, state employees including Justice Ganjoo, all of whom were Kashmiri. Soon after, clear warnings were issued against Kashmiri Hindu Pandits in Srinagar-based newspapers, calling for them to be purged. Ignored at first, its frequency combined with murders by JKLF cultivated an active fear. Soon after, a terror was unleashed upon the Kashmiri Hindu People. On 19th January 1990, a sentence for the purge of Kashmiri Hindus was released which, combined with the crimes committed against individuals of the community, led to a mass exodus. Hundreds of thousands of people fled, leaving their lives behind. This is when the Kashmiri conflict changed. Kashmiri Pandits have not been able to return to their homes ever since and have lived displaced in the generations that came later.

The Indian state enacted the Armed Forces Special Provisions Act- AFSPA- in September of 1990. The Act empowered state authorities to declare an area disturbed, which could take up to three months to return to a status quo. To maintain order in the disturbed area, an Armed Forces personnel could take actions to prevent unrest, including, and not limited to, shooting and causing death on suspicion. Army Personnel had legal immunity over their actions, and legally, no civilian body could legitimately be judge and jury in a case involving any armed force- the army, the state police, the central reserved police forces. This was seen most recently used in the neighbouring state of Punjab, where a whole generation was lost, with mass torture, and mass fleeing. in Kashmir it led to mass disappearances of men, leaving a whole generation of women as ‘Aadhi Bewas’-half-widows- women whose husbands never returned.

A generation that has grown up without fathers lives in Kashmir today.

In addition, mass torture camps were established in government guesthouses and cinema halls. In one specific incident, the twin villages of Kunan and Poshpora had rapes committed through two nights by the Central Reserve Police Forces.

The women raped have since been socially shunned. When the girls of the villages went to nearby villages to attend secondary school, they were dismissed as loose women.

Time and time again, Kashmiris bore the brunt of being under a colony. This has reached its peak over the last 200 odd days. A special caveat existed in the Indian Constitution, that allowed Kashmir to hold on to its rights. It was instituted as Article 370, and as recent as 2014, the Indian Supreme Court affirmed it to be sacrosanct, and unamendable- Justices Nariman and Goel stated this in the Sarfaresi Case. For the government of Narendra Modi, which has already been the most divisive government in the history of Independent India, this was a weak suggestion.

Modi and his cabinet thus arbitrarily, with a Presidential Proclamation, withdrew the article from the constitution, and with it, the special status awarded to Kashmir. In preparation for this announcement, thirty thousand extra troops were sent into Kashmir. In that statement, it stated that the state of Jammu & Kashmir was no longer a state of the Union of India. It was now Union Territory- without the power over its own police or other home affairs- bifurcated into a non-legislature territory of Ladakh, and a legislature territory of Jammu & Kashmir.

To apply the move further, the government suspended all communication services. They still have not been restored completely, and for a significant period in time, getting even an MRI scan done was impossible in Kashmir. Democratic leaders were put under arrest with calls for ‘preventive detention’ and have still not been able to address meetings. Secion 144 of the IPC was imposed, under which a meeting of more than 4 people at any moment in time could be disrupted and treated as a public gathering. The state showed itself as a big brother state, monitoring the calls being made out of Kashmir The Instrument of Accession clearly stated that the powers of the central government upon Kashmir could only be increased or decreased with the assent of the state Constituent Assembly. The constituent assembly ceased to exist in 1956, and since then, there has been no authority that can amend the power upon Kashmir.

The Modi Government, its many proxies, and most of the news outlets in India reported this as retribution for the Kashmiri Pandit Exodus. The plan, however, does not help the Pandits at all: it rather violates Kashmiri autonomy, ensuring that the trust of the Kashmiri people to work within Indian State Structures is completely destroyed.

Today, Kashmir is still in a blockade, and its problems continue to grow. Hundreds of Kashmiris are still unable to establish contact with their relations outside Kashmir. Most Masjids in Kashmir are still not able to congregate every Friday for prayers. The Jama Masjid in Srinagar has had the longest lull in prayers since the wars between India and Pakistan. In the long term, Kashmir can no longer make decisions for many internal matters on its own. Touting the revocation as a move for progress, the Modi government callously ignores that it can actually lead to poor Kashmiris across the state being gentrified out of their own lands and becoming serfs when major corporations from Bombay land in. Kashmiris now have more military interference in their everyday lives than anywhere else in the world.

Petitions in front of courts are being heard imminently, but the Modi government is more combative than ever before. The quelling of the Muslims and Dalits of India will be addressed in a different article.

Might I ask the reader to kindly read more on Kashmir, sign petitions, protest. I am still in search of a convenient way to donate a pound if not more to grassroots movements in Kashmir, and should you have any knowledge regarding this, please let me know. This is not a complete resource, and I apologise for any part left out.

Aarnav Tewari-Sharma

Feature Writer

Should there be any disagreements, please feel free to reach out to the author at


  • Ayyub R, '‘Our Children Are In Jail’: How India Is Keeping Kashmir Isolated And In Fear' (The Washington Post, 2020)

  • <> accessed 1 March 2020

  • Dev A, 'Manufacturing Normalcy' [2019] Caravan <> accessed 1 March 2020

  • Goel V, 'What Is Article 370, And Why Does It Matter In Kashmir?' New York Times (2019) <> accessed 1 March 2020

  • Hanif M, 'Opinion | India Annexes Kashmir And Brings Us Back To Partition' (, 2020) <> accessed 1 March 2020

  • Kumar A, Inshallah Kashmir (Alipur Studios 2012)

  • Loke A, and Gettleman J, 'In Kashmir, Growing Anger And Misery' (, 2020) <> accessed 1 March 2020

  • Peer B, Curfewed Night (Scribner 2014)

  • Sharma A, and Raouf P, 'Routines Of Resistance' [2018] Caravan <> accessed 1 March 2020

  • Thapar K, 'Article 370 Dilution' The Wire (2020) <> accessed 1 March 2020

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