Map of the state of Jammu & Kashmir

Basic facts, backgrounders and key issues related to the union territories of Jammu & Kashmir, and Ladakh


Most people talk of the Kashmir problem, not realising that Kashmir is only one small part of the larger state of Jammu & Kashmir - a state that comprises many regions and people.

Find out what Jammu & Kashmir is - and then ask the right questions about this unfortunate state, caught in the crossfire


Basic Facts About Jammu & Kashmir

What is 'Jammu & Kashmir'?
Jammu & Kashmir is a state in India. It is a large state and was ruled by a Maharaja (Indian King) in the past. Jammu & Kashmir is made up of many regions but is called Jammu & Kashmir because the two most populous regions in the state are called Jammu and Kashmir. There are other distinct regions in the state including Ladakh, Gilgit, Baltistan and Skardu. India's neighbour, Pakistan, grabbed many of these regions about 50 years ago. Some parts of the state were forcibly taken over by China. The largest portion of the original state of Jammu & Kashmir remains as a state within India.

What is Kashmir?
Kashmir is a beautiful valley in the northernmost part of India. It is part of a state called Jammu & Kashmir. The Kashmir Valley is surrounded by some of the highest mountain ranges in the world. The valley itself is green and thickly populated. The people of this Valley are highly evolved and have therefore dominated the history and culture of the state.

Where is India?
India is in the southern part of Asia. It is the world's seventh largest country and second only to China in terms of population. In short, it is a huge country. Like the United States of America, India is made up of a number of states. Each state has its own laws and customs but in important national matters, like national security and foreign affairs, each state must obey the Central government based in New Delhi. In the USA, a governor rules each state. Similarly, in each Indian State, the people of the state elect a ruler who is called the chief minister.

What is Pakistan?
Pakistan is a southern Asian country that neighbours India. It was originally a part of India. In 1947, when the British left India, some Muslims wanted a country of their own and got it. This new country was called Pakistan. The leaders of Pakistan felt that they should rule all areas of India where people belonging to the Muslim faith were in a majority. The majority of people in Jammu & Kashmir were Muslims, while others were Hindus and Buddhists. Some Muslims in Jammu & Kashmir wanted to be part of Pakistan while most others did not want that. But the rulers of Pakistan felt that if they could capture Jammu & Kashmir by military force, then the people would have to accept their rule. That is why they attacked the state of Jammu & Kashmir in 1947. At that time, a Maharaja ruled Jammu & Kashmir. Pakistani troops overran most of the state and the Maharaja had to escape to India. He asked India for help and merged his state with India. This was called the accession of the state of Jammu & Kashmir to India. Some Pakistani leaders to this day are unhappy that the whole of Jammu & Kashmir is not part of Pakistan.

What exactly happened in 1947?
Jammu & Kashmir in the year 1947 was an independent country for all practical purposes. The Maharaja who ruled the State had signed agreements with both Pakistan and India to remain neutral and not be part of either country. India honoured that agreement but Pakistan did not. Pakistani raiders and soldiers attacked the state in 1947 forcing the Maharaja to flee to India. The Maharaja asked India to help his people who were being killed and looted by the Pakistani raiders. He also agreed to make Jammu &; Kashmir part of India. The Indian ruler at that time was Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. He accepted Jammu &; Kashmir's accession to India and agreed to rescue his people from the Pakistani attackers. Indian troops were flown into the Kashmir Valley and they managed to drive away most of the Pakistani raiders from the state. But a large area of the state remained under the control of Pakistani soldiers. These areas were difficult to reach because they were surrounded by tall mountain ranges. Also, India wanted to stop the fighting. The fighting ended with Pakistan retaining control of a large area of the state but India keeping a larger part.

How did the fighting end?
The fighting ended in the beginning of 1949 because India did not want the war to drag on. India felt that other influential countries like the US and Britain would ask Pakistan to stop fighting and withdraw its soldiers from a State that had legally become part of India. India therefore went to the world body called the United Nations, or UN for short. India said that Pakistan had attacked a neutral State and that State had now become part of India. Therefore, Pakistan should withdraw its soldiers from the State. The United Nations agreed with the Indian demand and asked Pakistan to withdraw its forces from Jammu & Kashmir. It also told India to ask the people of Jammu & Kashmir whether they wanted to be part of India or part of Pakistan. This was because some people in the State wanted to join Pakistan while others wanted to stay with India. The Prime Minister of India agreed to ask the people what they wanted through a process known as a referendum or plebiscite. Pakistan did not agree and refused to vacate the areas of Jammu & Kashmir it had forcibly grabbed. Because of this a plebiscite could not be held. Powerful countries like the US and Britain did not force Pakistan to withdraw its troops from Kashmir. They simply termed the entire State as a 'Disputed Territory.'.

Why was Jammu & Kashmir termed "Disputed Territory"?
This was done essentially because both India and Pakistan claimed the state of Jammu & Kashmir. The big powers, like the US and Britain, did not want to take sides and might have felt that it would be best if the problem of the state could be settled between India and Pakistan. India wants to settle the problems once and for all. But Pakistan will only accept a solution under which it can keep the Kashmir Valley to itself. India cannot allow this. Therefore, the so-called "dispute" continues to this day.

But what is the legal position on Jammu & Kashmir?
Legally, Jammu & Kashmir is an integral and inseparable part of India. The British had ruled India as one undivided country made up of many provinces and princely states. When they left, India was partitioned into two separate countries. The new country, as mentioned earlier, was called Pakistan. The British as well as the leaders of both India and Pakistan had agreed to one basic principle - every inch of land must go either to India or to Pakistan. In other words, people living in India before the partition of 1947, had only two options: they could either join Pakistan or they could join India. They could not remain independent.
Jammu & Kashmir was actually an exception. The Maharaja of the State had wanted time to decide whether he should join Pakistan or join India. But the rulers of Pakistan did not want to give him the opportunity to decide and instead attacked his state, killing hundreds of people and causing extensive damage to property. The Pakistani action forced the Maharaja to join India.

Was the Maharaja's decision to merge his state with India legal?
It was absolutely legal. According to the agreement on which the partition of India was based, the rulers of princely states, like Jammu & Kashmir, had the absolute right to decide whether they wanted to join Pakistan or India. There was never any question of holding a referendum or a plebiscite. All the same, the then Prime Minister of India, Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru, agreed to hold a plebiscite because he was a democrat and wanted to find out what the people of the state of Jammu & Kashmir wanted.

Then why was a plebiscite not held?
The plebiscite was not held because Pakistan refused to vacate the large parts of Jammu & Kashmir that had been occupied by its soldiers. The plebiscite was meant for all the people of the state of Jammu & Kashmir and not just for those who lived in the Kashmir Valley. But the Pakistanis felt that the parts of the state they had captured was theirs and would not part with it. Pakistan defied the agreement reached by the world body called the United Nations and refused to vacate its troops. The powerful countries of the world did nothing to ensure that Pakistan honoured the UN Resolutions on Jammu & Kashmir. India could not therefore hold a plebiscite.

Why could not India hold a plebiscite in the part of Jammu & Kashmir it controls?
In 1947, when the Pakistanis attacked Jammu & Kashmir, the most popular leader of that state was a man named Sheikh Abdullah. He was a friend of the Indian Prime Minister, Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru. Both men believed in secularism, which is a concept that allows people of all religions and creeds to live together. Pakistan, on the other hand, was created on the basis of religion. The leaders of Pakistan wanted a country where only Muslims would rule. Indian leaders, on the other hand, felt that anybody could rule as long as the people elected that person. Sheikh Abdullah preferred the idea of secularism. He therefore wanted Jammu & Kashmir to be part of India rather than part of Pakistan. At the same time, the Hindus who were a majority in the Jammu region, also did not want to join Pakistan. Nor did the Buddhists of Ladakh. Since all these groups wanted to be with India, there was no point in holding a referendum on the Indian side of Jammu & Kashmir. Also, in 1954, the people on the Indian side of Jammu & Kashmir elected a government of their own. This government made it clear that their state was part of India and not part of Pakistan. Officially speaking, they "ratified Jammu & Kashmir's accession to India". This meant that henceforth there could be no question of holding a plebiscite in the state of Jammu & Kashmir.

Why cannot a plebiscite be held today?
A plebiscite cannot be held today for two reasons. Firstly, Pakistan continues to illegally occupy a large chunk of Jammu & Kashmir and does not allow the people here any freedom of choice. In most parts of the Pakistani occupied part of Jammu & Kashmir, the local people have no democratic rights. They cannot elect a government and they cannot dare to even talk against Pakistan for fear of being killed. For all practical purposes, the territory and the people captured by Pakistan in 1947 have been incorporated into Pakistan. These people have always been ruled by Pakistan and have not been given the opportunity to learn what democracy is all about. Unless, Pakistan agrees to give them a chance to participate in a plebiscite, it will be of no use. Secondly, Jammu & Kashmir became a legal, integral and inseparable part of India many many years ago. Today, no Indian government can allow some people in Jammu & Kashmir to break away from India. The Indian government tolerates some people in Jammu & Kashmir who talk about separation from India but does not like them. In other countries, people who want to break apart a country by creating a separate independent country are called traitors. They are usually punished according to its sedition laws.

Why is there so much violence in Kashmir nowadays?
This is because a section of leaders belonging to the Kashmir Valley want to break away from India. Some of them want to form a separate country while others want to join Pakistan. Making such demands is against the law. The Indian government has been forced to arrest some of these leaders and put them in prison. Most of them have later been released. Some of them, however, decided to become terrorists and started to kill people in the Kashmir Valley and in other parts of the state. To protect the lives of people and to counter these terrorists, the Indian government posted soldiers in the Kashmir Valley. The terrorists then started killing these soldiers as well. The soldiers started fighting back and for all practical purposes, the Kashmir Valley became a battlefield. Indian soldiers have killed many terrorists but some remain to this day and continue to frighten the people of Jammu & Kashmir.

How did Kashmiri terrorists dare to take on Indian soldiers?
Kashmiris are basically a proud people. The younger generation also showed that they are a brave people. When their elders and intellectual leaders told them about the glorious victories of Islam and how India had reneged on its promise for a plebiscite, the Kashmiri youth felt they had to take up the gun against the Indian security forces. This happened because some leaders in the Kashmiri Valley, who were unhappy about the fact that they could not rule, decided that they would force the Indian government to leave the Valley. These leaders knew they could not fight the Indian government by themselves. So they went to Pakistan. There the Pakistani leaders assured them all help because the Pakistanis felt that if India was forced to give up the Kashmir Valley, then they would grab it for themselves. They decided to help the Kashmiri leaders who wanted to separate from India. The Pakistanis trained Kashmiri youth to fight, set off bombs and carry out assassinations. They also gave them money and weapons of all kinds. These Kashmiri youth went back to the Valley and started a reign of terror in 1989. They became known freedom fighters as first and then later as terrorists. Now most Kashmiri youths are disillusioned and have stopped fighting but are still called terrorists, when actually those fighting are mainly from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, Pakistan and Afghanistan. These people are also looting Kashmiris and indulging in forced adulterous relations with many Kashmiri women.

What is the situation in the Kashmir Valley today?
Most Kashmiris are disillusioned with all the killing and fighting. They want peace. At the same time, some of them feel their future lies in an independent country. There is much uncertainty. Yet, elections are regularly held om the erstwhile state. In 1987, Dr. Farooq Abdullah, the leader of Jammu & Kashmir's main political party, the National Conference (NC), was elected Chief Minister. He has clearly said that Jammu & Kashmir cannot and will not be part of Pakistan. He has pledged full support to the Indian government to fight against the terrorists and the traitors who want to break away from India. There are other Kashmiri leaders, who wish to see the state return to normalcy and the people have a better life.

Why does violence and terrorism flare up in Kashmir from time to time?
When Kashmiris began to grow disillusioned with the fighting, the Pakistanis realised that an opportunity to grab the Kashmir Valley was slipping out of their hands. They therefore trained people from Pakistan, Afghanistan and other places to fight in Kashmir. Most of these new fighters were mercenaries and were paid to fight in Kashmir. These mercenaries were also told that the Muslim faith was in danger and that they were fighting a Jihad or Holy War. These are the people who are creating the most trouble in the Kashmir Valley today. They are also responsible for killing former Kashmiri terrorists who have stopped fighting. These foreign mercenaries have no love for the ordinary Kashmiri and have caused them a lot of harm, killing their men and raping their women. They are also responsible for the abduction of six foreign tourists in 1995. One of the tourists, who was an American, managed to escape while another, a Norwegian, was cruelly beheaded. The other four tourists were also killed in cold blood but their bodies were never found.

What do the people in other parts of Jammu & Kashmir feel?
The people in other parts of the Indian side of Jammu & Kashmir are very alarmed with all the fighting in the Kashmir Valley. They are also afraid of the demands for separating Jammu & Kashmir from India. They want to be part of India and in recent years have been demanding that the state of Jammu & Kashmir be broken up and the other main regions, including Jammu & Ladakh, be put under direct rule of the Central Government in New Delhi. But the Indian government does not want Jammu & Kashmir to be broken up any further.

What about the people on the Pakistani side of Jammu & Kashmir?
The Pakistani side of Jammu & Kashmir has been divided into two main parts. The largest part is called the Northern Areas. Here the people have no political or human rights and are ruled directly by Pakistan. They cannot express an opinion. But of late they have begun to rebel against Pakistan. The Pakistani Army has crushed these rebellions with brute force. The other part of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir is a tiny portion called Azad Jammu & Kashmir. Azad in the Urdu language means free. The people settled here are also not very happy with Pakistan but know that they cannot gain independence even though theirs is a supposedly a "free" country. Their leaders are supported by Pakistan and given lots of money. These leaders are comfortable with Pakistan and want to remain in Pakistan. Others do not want to stay in Pakistan but most do not dare protest for fear of being killed or imprisoned.

Will peace ever come to Kashmir?
Yes, it will. The elected Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir has promised to end terrorism in his state with the help of the Indian government. The common man in Jammu & Kashmir also wants peace and the resumption of normal life. Once the people of Kashmir can safely vent their feelings and foreign mercenaries are captured or killed, peace has to come. But peace can never come if the Kashmiri decides to go on fighting. His honour has to come first. For this, Pakistan too has a role to play. It must stop sending the so-called Holy Warriors of Islam into Kashmir. The present dictator of Pakistan realises that Islamic fundamentalists are destroying Pakistan and he has ordered a crackdown against them. Once they are finished as a force, peace will surely come Kashmir's way.

Bifurcation of the State in 2019
In October 2019, the Indian portion of the state was bifurcated into two parts - one part comprising the Jammu region & the Kashmir Valley called the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir and the other comprising the erstwhile districts of Ladakh and Kargil into the Union Territory of Ladakh. The bifurcation came into effect from the midnight of 31 October 2019 and two new lieutenant governors of the newly created union territories were sworn in the next day. The special status of the state under articles 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution too were abrogated by the Central Government through an act of Parliament. Read more...

How can others help?
The violence in Jammu & Kashmir continues because terrorists fighting here are helped by Pakistan. The government of Pakistan refuses to reconcile to the fact that Jammu & Kashmir is part of India. Therefore, the Pakistanis do not want peace to return to Jammu & Kashmir. They are determined to keep the fires of violence and hatred burning on the Indian side of Jammu & Kashmir. In the meanwhile, innocent people in Kashmir are getting caught in the crossfire. People from all over the world can help by urging their leaders to tell Pakistan to accept the reality in Kashmir and negotiate a final settlement with India so that both countries can live in peace. The government of India and Pakistan also must be told that there can be no solution to the problem of Jammu & Kashmir without consulting all the peoples of the state, including those living outside the Kashmir Valley. Everybody can help by further urging the Indian government to consult the people for a long lasting honourable solution. Both the Government of India and the separatist militants must also end fighting in order to bring about permanent peace through the processes of dialogue and negotiations. If this can be done, then Jammu & Kashmir and the world would be a safer place to live in.