Kashmir Conflict: A Heartfelt History – Part I
Posted on: January 31, 2015.

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The Land

Kashmir derives its name from Sanskrit ka shimira meaning “desiccated land”, a land—the Kashmir Valley, formerly a lake—from which water was absorbed or drained, according to the history of the mid-12th century.

Saptarishi (Sanskrit: sapta “seven” and rishi “sage”) Kashyapa is one of the seven sages extolled in Hindu literary works like Brahmanas and the Upanishads. He is regarded the son of Rishi Marichi who is one of the ten maanasputras “conscientious sons” of the Hindu god of creation, Lord Brahma. Lake Kashmir was believed to have been drained by Kashyapa, who emptied its waters into the valleys of the hills at Baramulla (Varaha-mula) to prepare the land for mass human settlement.

The dwellings in this settlement collectively became known as Kashyapa-pura and later identified as the Kaspatyros of Herodotus and Ptolemy’s Kaspeiria. Famous Chinese Buddhist traveller and chronicler Hiuen Tsiang “Xuanzang” (Zew-an-zang)—who visited India in 631 A.D.—referred to this land as the state of ‘Kash-mi-lo’ in 1st century A.D.

The Rule

Kashmir was ruled by the Pashtun Durrani Empire during the 18th century and eventually conquered by the Sikh ruler Ranjith Singh in 1819. Following the First Anglo-Sikh War (1845-46), Kashmir was ceded to the English East India Company (EEIC) under the Treaty of Lahore. The EEIC sold Kashmir to Rajah Gulab Singh of Jammu under the Treaty of Amritsar, which made him the Maharajah of Jammu and Kashmir. Subsequently, Kashmir was ruled by the Hindu Maharajahs of the princely state of Kashmir and Jammu, until India attained independence from British rule in 1947.

The end of British rule in India culminated in the creation of a new state—the Dominion of Pakistan—besides the Union of India as the successor state to British India, ending British suzerainty over the 562 Indian princely states.

The Dispute

The seed of dispute was sown by Maharajah Hari Singh, the ruler of the princely state of Kashmir and Jammu when the Indian Independence Act 1947 was declared. The Act placed three options before the rulers of the 562 Indian princely states. The ruler could choose to join either India or Pakistan or remain independent.

Jammu and Kashmir was the largest of the princely states. Maharajah Hari Singh however chose to postpone making one of the three choices, assuming that the delay would maintain Kashmir’s independence. However, that would not be so. Trapped between a revolution by Kashmiri Muslims in the western borders of his state and an intervention by Pashtun tribesmen, Maharajah Hari Singh floundered and signed an instrument of accession for Kashmir to the Union of India on 25 October 1947.

Dispute arose when Pakistan—anticipating the annexation of Kashmir to its territory as it considered Kashmir its natural extension—and India—intending to confirm the act of accession—came in at loggerheads with each other over the possession of Kashmir.

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