Kashmir background info
January 31, 2004 9:53 PM   Subscribe

Okay. So I was discussing the politics of the sub-continent with a friend of mine from New Delhi... and the issue of Kashmir came up. I know a little bit about the situation (more than he expected by any stretch of the imagination), but I didn't feel really capable of having a serious discussion on the matter.

So here's my question: does anyone have background on the matter? Are there any reputable sources? Has any consensus been reached by parties outside the conflict?

This was all stirred by my friend's comment that the Kashmiris want Indian statehood — and that this is really just a land grab by the Pakistani government. Sounded pretty one-sided, so any light on the matter would be appreciated.
posted by silusGROK to Society & Culture (9 answers total)
You might start somewhere like here. I'm not sure that you're going to find the kind of balance you're looking for on the internet, or the kind of depth you're looking for in any but the best (and longest) metafilter comment.
posted by Dasein at 10:00 PM on January 31, 2004

like most world problems today, it started with the meddling of the british.

1846: Kashmir is sold:
The British colonial rulers of India sold Kashmir, including its population, through a deed of sale called the Treaty of Amritsar, to a Hindu warlord who had no roots in the area. This warlord began calling himself the Maharajah of Jammu and Kashmir. His was a particularly brutal regime, memories of which persist to this day. Several mosques were occupied and shut down by his forces. The slaughtering of a cow was declared a crime punishable by death.

another link
posted by clavdivs at 10:20 PM on January 31, 2004

meddling of the british IMO
posted by clavdivs at 10:23 PM on January 31, 2004

I can tell you how the whole thing started. When Britain gave India/Pakistan independence, they split the region into a Hindu and a Muslim state. Regions with a majority population became part of Pakistan, everything else became India, for the most part. Some independent kingdoms got to chose. Now, quoting Stein's A History of India:

[Kashmir] was connected to India through a district of the Punjab, but its population was 77 per cent Muslim and it shared a boundary with Pakistan. Hence, it was anticipated that the maharaja [of Kashmir] would accede to Pakistan... When he hesitated to do this, Pakistan launched a guerrilla onslaught meant to frighten its ruler into submission. Instead, the maharaja appealed to [the British governor-general administering the transfer of power] for assistance, and the governor-general agreed on condition that the ruler accede to India. Indian soldiers entered Kashmir and drove the Pakistan-sponsored irregulars from all but a small section of the state. The United Nations was then invited to mediate the quarrel. The UN mission insisted that the opinion of Kashmiris must be ascertained, while India insisted that no referendum could occur until all of the state had been cleared of irregulars.

A cease-fire was agreed to, but there are still militants in Kashmir. (According to India, anyway. A cynic would say that the Indian government wouldn't agree to conduct a referendum until it knew it would win.) The dispute set the tone for relations between the new countries, and now it's too late for either side to back down. It's a matter of national pride for both sides.

On preview: I talk to damn much.
posted by samw at 10:25 PM on January 31, 2004

DialogueNow:Promoting dialog about the India-Pakistan conflict. That's a scoop site that may be of help, i am not a member and know nothing about it though. Here is their about page
posted by rhyax at 1:29 AM on February 1, 2004

There's also a large chunk of the modern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, to the north and east of the Kashmir valley itself, basically over the front ranges of the Himalayas, that is not involved in the "Kashmir dispute" as such (and a lot of which is not claimed by Pakistan). The region was annexed to the British Raj in the 1830s/1840s I think; before, part of the region used to be part of the Tibetan Empire, and then independent kingdoms. The people in this area still have disputes with Delhi, charging that the Indian state and the state of Kashmir consistently short-change them in terms of development, because of their remote status.
posted by carter at 7:28 AM on February 1, 2004

One thing to keep in mind is that schools in both countries are extremely partisan in their education of students about the matter, and the culture of the subcontinent is heavily biased towards honoring the teachings one learns in school. This means that both sides are basically buying a line of horseshit and a lot of citizens of both countries are unaware they're completely biased in one direction or the other.

Also, a key point to monitor in any discussion (which I learned quickly after advocating reunification of India and Pakistan) is water rights. The sources of drinking water for Kashmiris play a huge, and largely invisible, role in the decisions people make about the area.
posted by anildash at 10:08 AM on February 1, 2004

I'm familiar with the water rights issue... I didn't realize the cultural bias towards one's school learning, however.

I was mostly trying to get at the history of the whole conflict. I've wishlisted the book Dasein linked to... and I'll read the other linked materials. I guess I'm just frustrated by the amount of propaganda.

I was particularly hoping you'd chime in, Anil, as I've come to respect your opinion a good deal. What's your take on it all? What does your family say about it all? I ask because I lived in Quebec during the most recent push for separation, and I was amazed at the breadth of opinion on the matter from the francophones I knew — listening to the news, you'd think the whole provence was a bunch of pur-lainers ("laine pur", or "100% wool" is a phrased used by Quebecer uber-nationalists)... and I wondered if the Indian diaspora has a different opinion than the folks back in Mumbai and Colcutta.
posted by silusGROK at 3:48 PM on February 1, 2004

I'm deeply impressed by this thread; there can't be many venues where such a hopelessly tangled and partisan issue can be discussed so knowledgeably and even-handedly. Don't apologize, samw; that was an excellent brief summary. anildash, I'd love to know more about the water issue; I've read a lot about Kashmir and this is the first I've heard of it.

I'll add my two cents: the New Yorker has published some great reportage on Kashmir, and this excellent article by Isabel Hilton explains much of the history and what can be gleaned of the opinions of the inhabitants.
posted by languagehat at 4:01 PM on February 1, 2004

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