This map is part of a series of 5 animated maps showing the history of History of India since Independence in 1947.
Kashmir, sandwiched between Pakistan, India, China and Afghanistan, and close to Tajikistan, is one of the most disputed and militarized zones of the subcontinent. Since 1947, it has become a serious bone of contention between India and Pakistan and the theatre of several wars. For India, it symbolizes multiculturalism, diversity and pluralism. For Pakistan, on the other hand, Kashmir’s Muslim majority makes the state a natural part of its own frontiers.
On 26 October 1947, confronted with armed attacks by Pakistan, the Hindu ruler of Kashmir, Maharaja Hari Singh, signed the Instrument of accession that integrated his princely state into the newly founded Indian Republic. The conflict was not resolved for all that: the United Nations scheduled a referendum to decide the state’s future, but this remained a dead letter.
A Line of control, established in 1949, divided the state between India and Pakistan. Two-fifths were attached to Pakistan as ‘Azad’ or free Kashmir in the west, and Gilgit Baltistan in the north. The other three-fifths formed the state of Jammu-Kashmir which became part of the Indian Union. The state’s population is for the most part Muslim, with the exception of the region of Jammu, which has a Hindu majority and Ladakh which, being ethnically and culturally linked to Tibet, has a Buddhist majority.
On the eve of the war with India in 1962, China took control of the high plateau of Aksai Chin, and later the valley of Shaksgam, which was ceded by Pakistan in 1963.
The state of Jammu-Kashmir has special status under the provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution and enjoys considerable autonomy. Non-Kashmiris cannot own property and it is currently the only state with its own flag.
The institution of democratic elections in the state proved problematic. The first legislative elections took place only in 1962, ten years after the other Indian states. Increasing rebellion from the 1980s onwards, military repression, and the incapacity to form elected governments with a clear majority have led to the frequent suspension of the legislative assembly and the imposition of direct rule by the Indian government.
The effects are visible: 250,000 Hindus, the Kashmiri Pandits, were forced to flee their native land, Islam- traditionally a pacific Sufism in this region – has been radicalized, and the population is largely hostile to the central government.
Numerous political parties and militant groups have surfaced. Among them, the Jamaat-e-Islami favours integration into Pakistan; the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front demands independence for Kashmir. The Indian central government, headed by the Bharatiya Janata Party in 2014, wishes to put an end to Kashmir’s special status which is enshrined in the Constitution.
While military pressure and radical extremist positions prevent a widely acceptable solution to the problem, the Kashmiris still aspire to peace, civil liberties and a return to normalcy.