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Assessment for Kashmiris in India

Publisher Minorities at Risk Project
Publication Date 31 December 2000
Cite as Minorities at Risk Project, Assessment for Kashmiris in India, 31 December 2000, available at: [accessed 26 November 2015]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
India Facts
Area:    3,287,590 sq. km.
Capital:    New Delhi
Total Population:    984,004,000 (source: unknown, 1998, est.)

Risk Assessment | Analytic Summary | References

Risk Assessment

The Kashmiri Muslims have four of the factors that increase the likelihood of continued rebellion in the future: a decade-long high-level insurgency; the group's territorial concentration; recent government repression; and a history of lost autonomy. Factors that might inhibit or limit future rebellion include India's tradition of democratic rule, its past ability to negotiate settlements with separatist groups, and transnational efforts in support of a diplomatic settlement.

More than 65,000 people have died since the Kashmir insurgency began in late 1989. Efforts to reach a negotiated settlement will require the active involvement of the Indian government, Pakistan, and Kashmiri rebel groups, who have so far largely been excluded from any talks.

Analytic Summary

The Kashmiri Muslim residents of Indian-administered Jammu & Kashmir are primarily concentrated in the region referred to as the valley which includes the state's capital city, Srinagar. The state's southern Jammu region is largely populated by Hindus while the northern Ladakh area is predominantly Buddhist. There has been no significant group migration across the country's regions.

The Kashmiri Muslims speak a common language, Kashmiri, which is also used by the state's other residents (LANG = 1). Group members have different social customs than the country's dominant Hindu community and they also adhere to Islam in comparison to India's majority who are Hindus (BELIEF = 3).

The historical region known as Kashmir comprises the territories of Indian-administered Jammu & Kashmir along with Pakistan-administered Azad Kashmir (Free Kashmir) and parts of that country's northern territories. The region was ruled by the Sikhs until the British conquest in 1846. The British chose to utilize indirect rule in the area and achieved this through the sale of the region to a Hindu maharajah (ruler). This allowed the British to maintain a buffer zone between the Russian and Chinese empires without having to incur the administrative costs of direct rule.

When it was decided that the Indian subcontinent would be partitioned to create the states of India and Pakistan, princely states such as Jammu & Kashmir were given the choice of acceding to either of the new states based on geographic and demographic realities. In Kashmir's case, the region had a majority Muslim population but the area's Hindu ruler chose to negotiate standstill agreements with both India and Pakistan when they became independent in August of 1947.

In October of that year, western Kashmir was the site of a tribal rebellion which was soon aided by large numbers of Pakistani troops (REBEL45X = 3). The Hindu maharajah appealed to New Delhi for assistance but in return he was required to agree that Kashmir would become a part of the newly-independent India. After Indian troops entered the region, the rebellion was shortly halted. The result was that 2/3 of historical Kashmir's territory was held by the Indians with the remaining 1/3 governed by Pakistan.

The United Nations agreed to hold a plebiscite to determine the region=s future status and to ensure that a ceasefire was monitored, the UN Military Observer Group was deployed to the border areas between the two countries. United Nations efforts to mediate the Kashmir dispute throughout the 1950s met with little success as did bilateral meetings between the two countries. In 1956, Jammu & Kashmir, the country's only Muslim-majority area, was proclaimed as a state of the Indian Union, despite the persistent efforts of leaders such as Sheikh Abdullah and his National Conference party which had consistently pressed for independence.

Protests in Jammu & Kashmir in the mid-1960s were viewed in Pakistan as the opportune time to obtain the territory to reunite it with Azad Kashmir. The second India-Pakistan war broke out in September of 1965 when Pakistani troops crossed into Jammu. The war was short-lived as arms embargoes by the US and Britain limited the military capabilities of both countries. The USSR negotiated a ceasefire between India and Pakistan which was monitored by a United Nations force.

The third India-Pakistan war erupted in 1971 when India militarily intervened in East Pakistan to support the Bengali secession campaign. This war was also over within a matter of weeks and the new state of Bangladesh emerged.

Developments in Jammu & Kashmir in the 1980s set the stage for the current Kashmiri insurgency. The federal Congress-led government sought to manipulate events in the region through various means including reportedly rigging the 1987 state elections which resulted a victory by the state Congress party and the region's National Conference party. For the first time, Muslim parties had formed a coalition to participate in the elections. Riots opposing the election results followed.

The initiation of the Kashmiri Muslim insurgency is usually dated to December 1989 when the daughter of the federal Home Affairs Minister was kidnaped by Kashmiri rebel groups (REB89 = 3). Throughout the 1990s, Kashmiri rebel groups engaged in widespread attacks against state authorities and their security forces. The Indian government sought to repress the rebellion and numerous human rights abuses by security forces were reported. Elections were held in Jammu & Kashmir in 1996 with the National Front led by Farooq Abdullah, the son of the region's legendary leader, achieving victory. However, the state government has been unable to address key Kashmiri Muslim grievances.

The future status of Indian-held Jammu & Kashmir and Pakistani-administered Azad Kashmir gained further prominence when India and Pakistan openly displayed their nuclear weapons capability in May of 1998. Relations between the two countries improved in February of 1999 when bus links were established between two cities close to their respective borders. However, the situation significantly deteriorated in May of that year when it was discovered that Kashmiri insurgents along with Pakistani army troops had infiltrated the Ladakh region in Jammu & Kashmir. Thousands of Indians and Pakistanis died during the standoff which was defused after US President Clinton received assurances from Pakistani Prime Minister Sharif that the military forces would be withdrawn from the Kargil region.

No substantive negotiations have occurred between India and Pakistan or between India and the Kashmiri militant groups as of the end of 2000. The main Kashmiri Muslim group, the coalition All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC), has asserted that no settlement can be reached without the inclusion of the Kashmiris in negotiations between the two countries. Previous bilateral talks in the 1990s, which addressed the Kashmir issue, made no progress.

The Kashmiri Muslims are subject to various political restrictions as a result of the insurgency. These include restrictions on movement, freedom of expression, rights in judicial proceedings, and the ability to politically organize. Kashmiri Muslims, as represented by the National Conference, do currently govern the state but are marginalized in Indian politics as a whole (POLDIS00 = 3). Group members face economic discrimination which is largely the result of historical restrictions and neglect coupled recently with the effects of the insurgency (ECDIS00 = 1).

The majority of group members are seeking widespread autonomy while minority factions favor either independence or unification with Pakistan (SEPX = 3). In addition, greater economic opportunities are a major issue as the region's major source of revenue, tourism, was adversely affected by the rebellion. Freedom of religious belief and protection from attacks by communal groups are also concerns for the majority of Kashmiri Muslims.

Group members are primarily represented by militant organizations but also by conventional political parties such as the National Conference which currently governs the state. The oldest Kashmiri rebel group, the Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front, rejected the use of violence in the early 1990s and has utilized political means to obtain independence. In recent years, Pakistani based and supported groups such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Harkat ul-Mujahidin have been at the forefront of the militant struggle. These groups favor reunification with Pakistan. While the majority of group members support organizations that represent their interests, the Kashmiri Muslims are a factionalized group (COHESX9 = 3). There have been no violent hostilities reported between Kashmiri organizations in recent years.

Relations between Kashmiri Muslims and minority groups within the state were characterized by a number of violent incidents during 1998-2000. Kashmiri rebel groups continue to engage in violent attacks against Hindus and communities of migrant workers. For the first time since the insurgency began, they were alleged to be responsible for attacks against the Sikh community during the year 2000.

Kashmiri political mobilization in support of independence predates the emergence of India and Pakistan (PROT45X = 2). The Kashmiris have a long history of persistent protest; however, the group's rebellion only emerged as a sustained force in the late 1980s (REB89 = 3). The government's counterinsurgency campaign includes arrests and executions of group members, the use of torture, systematic killings by paramilitaries supported by the government, the confiscation or destruction of property, restrictions on movement, unrestrained force used against protestors, and military campaigns against rebels. Human rights organizations have often raised concerns about abuses by the security forces.


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