WHEN DID THE KASHMIRI STRUGGLE BEGIN?
The historical case for Kashmiri self-determination goes back not just to the year 1947, when the Indian subcontinent was partitioned, but to the year 1931, when Kashmiris began a mass movement against the Dogras, their princely rulers.
This means that Kashmiri struggles for freedom and just rule predated the creation of India and Pakistan. The Dogras were a Hindu monarchy that ruled over Muslim-majority Kashmir from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century during the period of British colonial rule. During the 1931 mass movement, Kashmiris called for more representative government and better economic and educational opportunities, especially for the region’s Muslims, who were seen as being marginalized under the Dogras.
WHAT HAPPENED IN 1947?
As Kashmiris began to demand an end to Dogra rule in the period of decolonization, their struggle became entangled with the political developments surrounding Partition.
In 1947, as a princely state, the state of Jammu and Kashmir had the option of acceding to either of the two dominions, Hindu-majority India or Muslim-majority Pakistan.
An uprising in the region of Poonch by Jammu Muslims against the Dogra Maharaja led to a tribal raid from northwest Pakistan by Pathan Muslims who wanted to liberate Kashmir’s Muslims from their Dogra overlords. In response, the Dogra Maharaja requested military assistance from the Government of India.
The Government of India agreed to do so only if the Dogra Maharaja signed a treaty of accession, which gave India control over the foreign affairs, defense, and communications of the region. The treaty promised that the state’s future would be determined “by a reference to the people.”
Both India and Pakistan went to war in 1948, resulting in Indian occupation of two-thirds of the former princely state and one-third by Pakistan.
WHAT WAS THE PLEBISCITE?
India took the dispute to the United Nations, which called for a plebiscite in the region once hostilities had ceased.
The plebiscite has never taken place, and this remains the root of the issue, even more than seventy years later. This is in direct contrast to the Indian state’s narrative of Kashmir being an “integral part” of India, and Kashmiris being “separatists.”
WHAT HAPPENED AFTER 1947?
Indian occupied Kashmir was treated as a colonial outpost of the metropole in Delhi.
Corrupt governments were installed in the state to secure the accession for India and quell pro-Pakistan or pro-independence sentiments in the region.
Through these local governments, India eroded Kashmir's political, economic, and judicial autonomy, which had been promised in Article 370 of the Indian constitution, resulting in even greater unrest.
A number of the elections were rigged, and the election machinery would not allow oppositional parties to contest. Rulers that had served their political purpose were unceremoniously removed and new governments were installed at the whim of the Government of India.
The state also became increasingly dependent on its fiscal ties with India which provided much of the budget to run its socio-economic programs and restricted Kashmiri economic self-sufficiency.
Kashmir’s natural resources were extracted for use in the metropole. Amidst intense local repression, demands for a plebiscite to determine the future of Kashmir were sidelined throughout the second half of the twentieth century.
WHAT WAS THE MILITANCY?
The failure of secular and constitutional means to resolve the issue, as well as realignments in global politics after the Iranian Revolution and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, resulted in a turn to more violent means of resistance to Indian occupation of Kashmir.
From the late 1980s to the early 2000s, Kashmir was embroiled in a violent uprising, aided by foreign fighters, against the Indian state. The insurgency was supported by Pakistan. It was initially led by the secular, pro-independence Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, but was, with the intervention of Pakistan, overtaken by the pro-Pakistan, Hizbul Mujahideen.
The Indian state managed to quash the movement through direct force, the introduction of counter-insurgency militant groups such as the Ikhwan, and a policy of divide and rule that contributed to infighting within the militant and pro-freedom ranks.