How Has Kashmir’s Religious Map Changed Since 1947?

The Kashmir conflict and Partition are often portrayed as being different stories, but in fact, the Kashmir conflict is partly a result of Partition. If it weren’t for the sloppy and illogical manner in which the British executed Partition, the Kashmir conflict would never have occurred. Unlike Punjab and Bengal, Kashmir was not technically part of the Raj. It was a princely state, actually called the Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir. Princely states, 565 of them, were a British creation that existed in a weird limbo between independence and colonial occupation. They were theoretically independent and allied with the British, but the British held all the power in them, and the princes were basically figureheads. While the British remained in India, the princely state vs British India split was largely a distinction without a difference.

When independence came, the princely states presented a problem, because technically they retained their independence. The British policy, after some confusion, was to give the princes the option of acceding to either Pakistan or India, regardless of the religion of their subjects or the geographical location of their territory. It would have been more logical for the British to have given each princely state to the religiously appropriate country, and partitioned Kashmir, the one large state with both Hindu and Muslim majority areas, along religious lines. While this policy would have infringed upon the rather dubious sovereignty of the princely states, the princes didn’t have the clout to stop it. Why the British didn’t take this option is unclear, but it likely wasn’t due to a healthy respect for the sovereignty of Indian rulers (it isn’t as if India invited the British in, after all). There is some evidence that the British were playing a game with the princes, in which they were flirting with the possibility of granting independence to some of the larger states, such as Kashmir, Hyderabad in central India, and Travancore in the far south. The princes were seen as the most pro-British element of the Indian political leadership, and some in London, including Winston Churchill, thought of them as a way to maintain a British foothold in the sub-continent. The Indian leadership considered independent princely states completely unacceptable and succeeded in obtaining the accession of all of the princely states which were contiguous with India through a mix of patriotism, religion, bribery, shady assassination attempts, and a few strategic invasions. It is a pretty fascinating story, which to my knowledge has never been fully told.

Anyway, Kashmir was one of the tough cases. It was a Muslim majority state, but had a Hindu ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh. At first he made some noise about independence, which, for what it’s worth (sadly, not much), is what the majority of Kashmiris actually wanted. Then, he led the Pakistanis to believe that he was moving towards accession, although India was of course also wooing him. The Pakistanis lost patience and infiltrated irregular fighters over the border to take Kashmir by force. The Maharaja desperately called New Delhi for military assistance and India agreed to send in troops, but on one condition…

The Maharaja had no choice but to agree to India’s demand to accede, and the Indians were able to take the vast majority of Kashmir, but not all of it. This set up the dispute of the territory, which continues to this day (both Pakistan and India claim Kashmir in its entirety). The Kashmir dispute has shaped both Indian and Pakistani politics, especially Pakistani. For now, lets just take a quick look at the pre-Partition demographics of the state.

Jammu and Kashmir had a total of about 4 million people, of whom 76.4% were Muslim, 20.1% were Hindu, and 3.49% Other, mostly Sikh and Buddhist. The two main cities were Srinagar, with 208,000 people (78.4% Muslim, 20.7% Hindu, 0.9% Other), and Jammu, with 50,000 people (60.7% Hindu, 31.6% Muslim, 7.8% Other, mostly Sikh).

The language map in Kashmir is a real mess. I won’t post it here, but if you’re interested take a look here. Kashmiri is the most common language, but is only spoken in the Valley of Kashmir, centered on Srinagar. In the far east of the state, speakers of Balti and Ladakhi, two closely related Tibetan languages dominate. In the southern Jammu area and the west around Muzaffarabad, most people speak Western Pahari languages that link other Paharhi languages such as Nepali with Punjabi and Hindi. Pothohari, the dialect in the Muzaffarabad area, is often classified as a Punjabi dialect. Gojri, a Rajasthani dialect which somehow ended up in Kashmir is spoken by a minority as well. In the far north, most people speak Shina, a language related to Kashmiri, or Burushaki, a language isolate with no known relatives.

Below is the much simpler religious map of the state. I used the 1931 Census data instead of 1941 because I was able to find more detailed data for the former. The template map I used also came from the 1931 Census.

Jammu and Kashmir Religion 1931

I don’t think I need to draw in zones like I did for the Bengal and Punjab posts, because it’s pretty obvious who lived where in Kashmir. The Hindus were a majority in the southern area around Jammu, and significant minorities in the west, and in Srinagar in the center of the Valley of Kashmir. Buddhists were the majority community in the very sparsely populated eastern part of the state. Muslims dominated everywhere else, and made up close to 100% of the population in the north of the state. Unlike in Bengal and Punjab, a partition would have been fairly easy, especially because the Hindus in the south didn’t share linguistic ties with the Muslims of the Valley and to the north. Since the de facto partition of 1947, India has administered most of Kashmir, including the overwhelmingly Muslim Valley of Kashmir. Pakistan got the north and the very western edge of the former princely state. Below is the same map with the 1948 ceasefire lines (or Line of Control) drawn in as best I could.

Jammu and Kashmir Religion with Borders

Obviously, the haphazard way in which Kashmir was split made religious considerations impossible, so the Line of Control bears no relation to the religious demographics of the state. Below is what the former princely state looks like today religiously. I used this map as a template. One quick administrative note: the border between China and India in the maps is different, but that might reflect genuine uncertainty on the part of the British as to where exactly the border fell (see the 1962 War for more detail).

Kashmir Religion Today

The Hindu minorities in what is now Pakistani Kashmir are gone, and the south is more Hindu. Overall, unlike in Punjab and Bengal, Partition did not have a big influence on the religious makeup of Kashmir. Perhaps the fact that the border was never open for immigration stopped people from moving, or the overwhelmingly Muslim nature of the Valley prevented the population from leaving. The Valley did have an economically influential Hindu minority known as the Kashmiri Pandits, most of whom have been forced to flee since the late 1980s, but Muslims have always made up made up at least 90% of the population in this critical central region. Finally, perhaps the fact that the Pakistan movement never caught on in Kashmir contributed to a reluctance to leave everything behind and move to Pakistan.

This last point is important in understanding Kashmir. The Kashmiris do not want to join Pakistan. They never have and probably never will. That doesn’t mean that they like the Indian presence in the Valley either (India has as many soldiers in Kashmir as the United States had in Vietnam). If given a choice, which won’t happen, the Kashmiris would choose independence. In a 2010 poll, 66% in Indian Kashmir said they would chose independence, while a whopping 6% favored a merger with Pakistan. India tacitly acknowledges that it is holding Kashmir against its will, but Pakistani politicians frequently make tear-jerking statements in support of their “brothers” in Kashmir and call for a referendum and self-determination for Kashmir. Don’t be fooled. Pakistan holds one third of Kashmir. Why not lead the way and hold a referendum? Well, a different 2010 poll put support for independence on the Pakistan side of Kashmir at 44%. Obviously, they think that a referendum would be too close to risk. Both sides have run roughshod over the Kashmiris at every turn.


16 thoughts on “How Has Kashmir’s Religious Map Changed Since 1947?

  1. While I liked your other articles on Partition, this one doesn’t seem very accurate. The key thing missing is the huge massacres that took place in the Jammu area after J&K acceded to India. The vast majority of Muslims in the Jammu area (they were Dogras and not Kashmiris) were uprooted and driven out to the Pakistani side of Kashmir. That is the reason for the solid majority of Hindus in Jammu today compared to the maps before partition. This is a highly under-reported fact, but check the following links to understand. This is one more reason for the general hatred for India among the Muslims of Kashmir.


    • Thanks for bringing this to my attention. Once I get my next post up, I’ll take a closer look at Jammu to see if this purge of Muslims is visible in the data. Any other information you have on the topic would be appreciated.


    • Oh yes that was not an unbiased comment. How about the 500,000 Kashmiri Hindus driven out of the valley by Kashmiri Muslims at gunpoint after already having killed thousands of Pandits, raping their women and stealing their homes? How convenient for you to forget that small alteration to the demographics of the Valley of Kashmir. Furthermore, how about the Hindus and Sikhs that were driven out of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir and more specifically the region that the Pakistan calls Azad Jammu and Kashmir. Then of course there are the Buddhists driven out of the Northern Areas. So much for your comment. There is a reasons that the Hindus of Kashmir (the few remaining plus the ones living in exile) hate Pakistan.


      • The article is about how Partition affected Kashmirs religious map, not about what happened in the last 25 yrs. Secondly, it is sad what’s happened to the Pandits from the Valley as well as how the Indian army is treating Kashmiris. That does not take away from the underreported massacres of Jammu’s Muslims at Partition. At the end of the day, there were many people who found themselves on the wrong side of the border in 1947, and we should recognize all of them.


        • Are you kidding? The title of the article is “How Has Kashmir’s Religious Map Changed Since 1947”? The last 25 years are completely relevant to the article of the continuing changes to the religious demography in the former Indian State of Jammu & Kashmir. That last reply of your could not be more self serving. Also, regardless of the title of the article, the last 25 years would be relevant since for goodness sake how many times does some person from Pakistan shoot their mouths off about the religious demography of J & K without taking into account forced changes that have taken place including the last 25 years. And obviously, J&K is just a symbol of the subcontinent’s problems since the division of India caused by the power hungry and very stubborn leaders of the Indian National Congress.


  2. One question that the blogger named Jawaharlal should try to answer is what the heck were Nehru, Patel, Jinnah and Gandhi saying or doing when the topic of the Princely States came up during negotiations for independence. Before the Indian Independence Act, what were these leaders thinking? You would think Jinnah especially would have made a lot of noise and insisted that the Princely States be included in the Partition plan. Why did Jinnah leave it to chance? I would have thought Nehru and Patel would have felt the same way. After all, the Princely States had no clout as you already stated and they knew that neither India or Pakistan would allow them to be independent so they should have been included in a somewhat orderly division of the Indian Empire rather than leave it to chance.


    • You are a Kashmiri Muslim therefore you definitely do not represent all Kashmiris in particular the Pandits. The Pandits do not share your views plus you drove them out at gunpoint. Also, what do you mean by “Kashmir”? Are you simply referring to the Valley of Kashmir or do you mean the entire former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir which is also partly occupied by China? The people of Jammu and Ladakh do not share your sentiments either. And, as far as PoK, who knows…the Pakistan Army rules PoK with an iron fist.


  3. I see your above post not overall accurate reason being:
    1. More than 90% of Muslims from the Jammu region have alway opted for being with India.
    2. I agree there are around roughly 75% of the muslims in J&K, however forget take into account shia and sunni aspect into account, shias account roughly 20-25% of the muslims in the state and they prefer to be with India as a equal citizen rather than minorities under sunnis.
    3. In sunnis to almost half of them don’t want to leave India and they would prefer to stay with India.

    So considering above all 3, i don’t this the survey is realistic view and most of the azadi is only a voilent holigans protest and the state population view.

    Any call for referendum would be defeated on any day.

    Then you may be wondering why is India not calling for referendum if it so sure.Well is sure on Kashmir but not sure on the few of smaller states in NorthEast(Mizo, Manipur and Nagaland), If referendum is allowed for Kashimir these states too will start asking for referendum, which small states which can’t survive on there own and as well more than 50% population if option exist would exit from India.


  4. This whole labeling (Pakistani vs Indian) is artificial and proof that people living in India are forgetful and people living in Pakistan are self-destructive. I am from India. The reason I think India is forgetful (or ungrateful) is because if not for the ancestors of current day Pakistan, all of India would have been run over by savages from the west. These people NOT of the islamic faith and defended against repeated aggression by various war-mongering invaders. After many centuries of defending and sacrificing family finally gave up and were forcibly converted into Islam. Every Indian must be thankful and greet Pakistani with affection and gratitude. I do come across many Pakistani and I see myself in them. I am thankful (profoundly grateful) for shielding rest of India. We cannot afford to overlook this historical fact. We, Indians, have allowed silly politics to drive a wedge between blood brothers. I say that some people living in Pakistan are self-destructive, in that they have destroyed the social fabric in Pakistan. Other minorities have not flourished in Pakistan. Even other sects of Islam have been violated such as Ahamadis and Suffis.This is a real tragedy for a great civilization. Vedic religion had no labels or name. It was a code of communal living, designed for scale. There is no pathway to become a hindu because they did not believe in labels. They clearly declared “eko sat, vipraha bahuda vadanti”. We can see this in action — India is one country where you can find Parsi, jews, zorastrians not to mention muslims, buddhists,jains, sikhs and hindus living in near perfect harmony. To be a hindu, one can live according to a certain common-sense sustainable principles and there were no other requirements.So, I have no idea why we devote time to number counting, forcing others to bear allegiance to meaningless labels. All the violence and tragedy we have witnessed is in violation of Prophet Mohammed. I like to remember the Prophet by a forgotten quote — a crime against one human being is a crime against all of humanity. No other religious leader can claim to such a lofty profound assertion. Prophet Mohammed was also a profoundly practical individual of his times. He was fighting nomadic tribes. Because they were nomadic, he often found himself fighting the same people over and over again repeatedly, because it was not his creed to kill non-believers. But allowing them to live became an impediment and highly inefficient. Practical that he was, changed his strategy to kill them so he did not have to battle them again. For his times, that was appropriate. Today we have codified how to treat prisoners of war. So all the people who are fighting and killing for one reason or the other have to
    stop and reflect. In my opinion a few misguided midgets are greatly influencing a great number of unwitting into such acts.
    Going back to India/Pakistan, India/Pakistan/Bangladesh must have open borders and move freely and intermingle, remain secular and practice their religion to the fullest extent. Jinnah has blessed all this endless misery upon us all. It is possible to love and wish well just as I a patently hardcore hindu and muslim friends from so many countries do. The most peaceful friends happen to be from Ahamadi community and Saudi Arabia. They could not harm an ant. They do not approve nor do they support any of these evil acts, much less engage.
    This is not easy. This is hard, very hard. very very hard. The only path to prosperity for 2 billion people. It requires imagination, courage, leadership and a degree of boldness that we have not seen in years, since Gandhi Ji.


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