Kashmir, officially known as Jammu Kashmir State, is situated on the extreme north of indo –Pakistan subcontinent and is surrounded by India Pakistan, Peoples Republic of China and Afghanistan. Kashmir State has a total area of 84, 741 square miles i-e more than the areas of Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Austria and Albania put together. This area is at present divided into four parts, Indian held part (about 52 thousand square miles including about 12000 sq. miles area of Aksai Chin under China’s Control) Azad Kashmir, indirectly controlled by Pakistan (about 4 thousand square miles) and Gilgit Baltistan directly ruled by Pakistan over 28 thousand Sq. miles. Total population of the State is over 16 million of whom over 10 million are in Indian-held part, about 3 million in Azad Kashmir, about 1.5 million in Gilgit Baltistan and the rest in Pakistan and abroad (mostly in UK).
The religious composition of the population of the State is: –
Muslim: 77 percent
Hindus: 20 percent
Others: 3 percent
The area under Chinese control is almost uninhabited. Srinagar is the summer capital and Jammu winter capital of Indian-held part and Muzaffarabad that of Azad Kashmir, whereas the official headquarters of Gilgit Baltistan are at Gilgit.
The texture of present population of Kashmir State is composed of races claiming their descent from Semitic, Mongoloid, Aryan, Persian and Arab races. The main languages are English, Urdu and Hindi. Kashmiri, Gojri, Pahari, Dogri, Shina, Ladakhi and Broshiski are regional dialects.
The history of Kashmir is traceable as far back as 4000 years B.C. Twenty-one dynasties of Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Zoroastrians had ruled Kashmir till 14th century A.D when Muslims appeared at its political stage. Of these twenty-one dynasties, eighteen were native under whom Kashmir enjoyed an independent status and comparatively far more prosperity. During the period of Lalita Ditya, one of the most powerful kings of pre- Muslim era who ruled Kashmir from 715 to 752 A.D., most of the present Punjab, a part of Tibet and a large area of Central Asia were under the kingdom of Kashmir. Kashmir commanded high respect from all neighboring states.
Muslims ruled the state for 480 years (1339 to 1819 A.D.) and this included 246 years of independence. Kashmir attained the peak of her glory during the period of Sultan Zainul Abedin (1420 to 1470 A.D.) popularly known as Budshah. Budshah, the great king as it means in Kashmiri language, was one of the noblest sons of the soil. People used to call him ‘‘Budshah” with love and affection and even today they mention his name with great respect. Budsah’s Kashmir was a model of economic prosperity, social justice and communal harmony in this part of the world. As a great centre of learning and culture, Kashmir attracted students from India, Persia, Central-Asia and Middle- East. Trade and commerce were at their peak and all the neighboring nations held Kashmir in great esteem. As a free patriotic nation, Kashmiris repulsed all those forces, which posed a threat to their independence. Budshah’s rule of 50 years is therefore called the ‘golden period” of Kashmir history. Before Budshah, Sultan Shahabuddin, another illustrious son of the soil had consolidated Kashmir’s independence paving the way for Budshah to make it a Welfare State. Embassies represented Kashmir in Turkey, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Delhi and Gujarat.
With the death of Budshah began the gradual decline of Kashmir’s golden era. Budshah’s Khahmiri dynasty was later over thrown by Chaks who ruled the State for quite some time and in 1585 A.D. the independence of Kashmir came to an end when Akbar, the great Moghal king of India annexed Kashmir but only after facing two defeats (and perhaps the only two during his kingship) at the hands of Kashmiri patriots. Mughals ruled the State for about 167 years .As lovers of natural beauty, they visited Kashmir quite often and took steps to add to its loveliness by raising stylish buildings and beautiful gardens. But Mughals did not bother much to improve common man’s lot. On the contrary, they forcibly introduced a typical way of living on Kashmiris. This was a very effective recipe to deprive them of their erstwhile bravery, militancy and self-confidence, in order to eliminates all chances of revolt by them. With the decline of Mughal power, Kashmir was annexed by Afghans. The Afghan rule over Kashmir, which lasted for 67 years (1752 to 1819 A.D.) was one of cruelty and loot. Most of the Afghan governors of Kashmir crushed the people ruthlessly. But there was something worse in store for Kashmiris. The Sikhs conquered the State and made it a colony of theirs. The Sikh rule, which lasted for only 27 years, was worse than that of the Afghans. Continuous slavery and ruthless suppression by foreign rulers had badly demoralized Kashmiris hence they could not put up a concerted resistance against alien domination and suppression and that subjected them to yet another slavery. In 1846 when the British conquered Kashmir as a result of a defeat which they inflicted on the Sikhs with the treacherous help of Gulab Singh. Rs 7.5 million their defence minister and sold Kashmir to him like a commercial commodity for a sum of this most ignominious and inhuman transaction was made in March 1846 under an agreement called the Treaty of Amritsar.
Gulab Singh and his successors ruled Kashmir with an iron hand. Some patriots who resisted the inhuman suppression were flayed alive and others subjected to other similar atrocities. This wave of repression continued until 1931 when the Muslim of Kashmir realized that they would perish if they continued to let the ever-increasing suppression go unchecked and un arrested. They abruptly rose in revolt against the despotic ruler and within a couple of years compelled him to concede to them a number of political, economic and social rights.
In 1946, exactly one hundred years after their sale in 1846, Kashmiris rose in open revolt .The movement was anyhow crushed and its leaders sentenced to long imprisonments. In 1947 the indo-Pak Subcontinent was divided and freed by the British. The ruler of Kashmir was being compelled by Indian leaders to ‘accede’ to India against the wishes of the people who rose in open rebellion and freed over one third of the State territory. The liberated territory was later further divided into two parts i.e. Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan with former under indirect and latter under direct control of Pakistan. The details regarding the stages that Kashmir Issue passed through during last six decades are mentioned under the heading “Brief History of Kashmir Issue”.
The economic potentials of Kashmir are such that within a decade or two of its re-unification and independence, it can become the most prosperous country of the region. Kashmir Valley is called the “Switzerland of Asia” and “Nature’s Show-window” for its fascinating natural beauty and climate most pleasant and full of health. Gilgit Baltistan in particular are famous the world-over for dozens of sky high-peaks including K-2 and Nanga Parbat. All this can invite millions of tourists every year providing it a lot of foreign exchange. Kashmir is very rich in water resources and can generate electricity on a large scale that is badly needed by its neighboring countries. Fruit, timber, minerals and herbs are found in abundance in different parts of the State. The handicrafts of Kashmir, famous the world-over, can prove a valuable asset. Watch making industry, already functioning in Srinagar on a small scale, can be developed. Prospects for heavy industry are also very bright. Skilled and un skilled manpower working abroad, over a million even now, can further strengthen its economy. The overall literacy rate in Kashmir is higher than that of both India and Pakistan.
SOME IMPORTANT FACTS
- Officially termed as Jammu Kashmir State and surrounded by Pakistan, India, China and Afghanistan, Kashmir has a population of over 16 million, more than individual populations of as many as133 independent nations of the world
- For longer part of its history, Kashmir has been an independent country with its frontiers expanding and shrinking periodically. Kashmir reached the zenith of its glory and prosperity during its independence.
- The economic potentials of Kashmir are such that within a decade or two of its re-unification and independence, it can become the most prosperous country of the region. Kashmir is called “Switzerland of Asia” and “Nature’s Show-Window” for its fascinating natural beauty and climate most pleasant and full of health. Kashmir valley and Gilgit Baltistan in particular are famous the world-over also for dozens of sky high-peaks including K-2 and Nanga Parbat. All this can invite millions of tourists every year. Kashmir is very rich in water resources and can generate electricity on a large scale that is badly needed by its neighboring countries. Fruit, timber, minerals and herbs are found in abundance in different parts of the State. The handicrafts of Kashmir, famous the world-over, can prove a valuable asset. Watch making industry, already functioning in Srinagar on a small scale, can be developed.
- The overall literacy rate in Kashmir is higher than that of both India and Pakistan.
- Both India and Pakistan are committed, through their declarations made on national and international level, to concede independence to Kashmir.
- At the time Pakistani tribesmen and Indian armed forces invaded it in October 1947, Kashmir was a fully independent State, the British paramountcy over it having ended on August 15, 1947 when the British had quit the Sub-Continent.
- Kashmir has an area of 222,000 sq. Kms. spread over five regions, Kashmir Valley, Jammu and Ladakh under Indian control since 1948 and Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan under Pakistan. The population of Indian administrated areas is over 10 million and those living in Azad Kashmir, Gilgit Baltistan and abroad number over 6 million.