Kashmir Crisis

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Kashmir, the last of the defiant states, was the reverse of Hyderabad. It had a Hindu ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh, but his subjects were mostly Muslims, accounting to 78 percent of the total population. The Maharaja was reluctant to join either India or Pakistan. But Lord Mountbatten urged him to take a decision to join either of the states before August 15, 1947.

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The Maharaja asked for more time to consider his decision. In the meantime he asked the Indian and the Pakistani government to sign a “standstill agreement” with him. Pakistan consented but India refused.

The local population of Poonch began to press the Maharaja to accede to Pakistan. In August 1947, they held a massive demonstration to protest against the Maharaja’s indecisiveness. The Maharaja panicked. He asked his Hindu paratroopers to open fire, and within a matter of seconds, several hundred Muslims were killed. Rising up against this brutal action, a local barrister called Sardar Muhammad Ibrahim immediately set up the Azad Kashmir government and began to wage guerrilla warfare against the Maharaja.

By October 1947, the war of Kashmir had begun in earnest. The Pathan tribesmen from the North West Frontier Province, wanting to avenge the deaths of their brothers, invaded the valley. On reaching the valley of Kashmir, they defeated the Maharaja’s troops and reached the gates of Srinagar, the capital.

The Maharaja sensing his defeat took refuge in Jammu whence he appealed to India to send troops to halt the onslaught of the tribesmen. India agreed on the condition that Kashmir would accede to India. On October 26, 1947, the Maharaja acceded to India. Lord Mountbatten accepted the accession on behalf of India.

On October 27, 1947, India began to airlift her troops to Srinagar, and launched a full-scale attack on the tribesmen. Pakistan was stunned. Despite her scant military resources, Pakistan was prepared to send in her troops but the British General Gracey, Commander-in-Chief of the Pakistan Army, was against it. Jinnah proposed an immediate ceasefire and later on a fair and free plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir.

In January 1948, India took the dispute to the Security Council. There it accused Pakistan of aggression and demanded that Pakistan withdraw her tribesmen. But Pakistan held that the accession of Kashmir had been brought about by force. The government requested the Security Council to arrange a cease-fire and asked both the tribesmen and the Indian troops to withdraw so that a free and impartial plebiscite could be held to ascertain the wishes of the people of Kashmir.

While the Kashmir issue was still on the table, the Indian troops launched a full-scale attack and drove the tribesmen right back to the Pakistani border.

Pakistan rushed her regular troops into Kashmir and a full-scale war with India ensued. She took control of the Azad Kashmir Army. But the Security Council on August 13, 1948, called for an immediate ceasefire, the withdrawal of all Pakistani and Indian troops and holding of plebiscite under United Nations’ supervision. Both the Indian and Pakistani governments accepted the resolution.

In January 1949, the resolution began to be implemented. In July 1949, the ceasefire line was demarcated. Pakistan’s side of Kashmir consisted of some parts of Jammu, Poonch, some areas of Western Kashmir, Gilgit, and a great chunk of Ladakh territory near the Chinese border in the North. India kept the valley of Kashmir, Jammu and the remainder of Ladakh territory near the Tibet border.

The cease-fire has remained in existence since 1949. No plebiscite has been held and thus the Kashmir issue still remains disputed and unresolved.

This article was last updated on Sunday, June 01, 2003