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.
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.
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).
The Hindu minorities in what is now Pakistani Kashmir are gone, and the south may be a bit 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.