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World What’s going on in Kashmir? A guide to the story so far

Lahore, Pakistan, Aug. 20: People carry signs as they chant slogans to express solidarity with people in Indian-held Kashmir. Pakistan, like India, administers part of the Kashmir region but lays claim to all of it.

Mohsin Raza/Reuters

The latest

  • Kashmiri separatist leaders have urged people to defy a military lockdown and join a mass march after Friday prayers this week. “Every person, young and old, men and women, should march after Friday prayers,” the Joint Resistance Leadership, which represents all major separatist groups, said on one poster.
  • It was the first such call since Aug. 5, when the Indian government revoked the region’s statehood and split it into two federal territories. That coincided with a crackdown that has limited Kashmiris’ rights to public assembly, movement and communication, and has led to mass arrests. At least 2,300 people in the former state have been detained during the lockdown, The Associated Press reported Wednesday, citing top Kashmir police and arrest statistics reviewed by the wire service.
  • Kashmir is slowly being reconnected to the outside world. The government has said it is gradually restoring phone lines, and as of Monday public buses were running in rural areas. In Srinagar, the main urban centre, schools reopened on Monday, but many parents kept their children at home, fearful of their safety.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s move in Kashmir has angered the independence movement and neighbouring Pakistan, but proved popular with his Hindu ultra-nationalist base. In Kashmir, The Globe and Mail’s Nathan VanderKlippe took a wider look at the political and religious agendas behind Mr. Modi’s recent actions.


The crackdown in Kashmir so far

Srinagar, Aug. 15: Indian paramilitary soldiers patrol on the road toward a parade venue for Indian independence day festivities.

Dar Yasin/The Associated Press

On Aug. 4, Indian troops put the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir under a tight security lockdown: Phone and internet communications were mostly cut off, public assemblies were banned, barricades and razor wire cut off travel between neighbourhoods and several Kashmiri leaders, even some who support India’s continued ownership of Kashmir, were put under house arrest. The restrictions slowly began to ease after Pakistan and India’s independence days had passed: By Aug. 19, the government was reconnecting phone lines and schools began to reopen.

Tensions along the border with Pakistan – which administers another part of Kashmir and, like India, claims ownership of the entire region – rose even higher than usual as India deployed tens of thousands of additional troops to what was already one of the most militarized places in the world. Skirmishes along the Line of Control left several soldiers and civilians dead, according to Pakistan’s military.

Watch: Get caught up with a timeline of key events leading up to the Indian government's crackdown in Kashmir. The Associated Press

India’s new plan for Kashmir

Kashmir

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MURAT Yükselir / THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE:

graphic news; tilezen; OSM contributers;

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MURAT Yükselir / THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE:

graphic news; tilezen; OSM contributers; reuters

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MURAT Yükselir / THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: graphic news; tilezen;

openstreetmap contributers; reuters

Ever since India and Pakistan’s partition in 1947, the struggle for control of the Kashmir valley that lies between the two countries has claimed tens of thousands of lives. Under British colonial rule, it was a princely state called Jammu and Kashmir, but now it’s split between Indian- and Pakistani-controlled areas, which some parts held or claimed by neighbouring China. So far, there have been two Indo-Pakistani wars and several skirmishes over the border between the areas of control. And since 1989, insurgents in Muslim-majority Kashmir have been fighting against majority-Hindu India, pushing for either independence or union with Muslim Pakistan.

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Before the recent crackdown began, Indian-administered Kashmir was its own state, called Jammu and Kashmir, that had special constitutional status. Article 370 gave Kashmir more legislative autonomy from India and barred outsiders from buying land there, though they were allowed to hold it on long-term leases. But on Aug. 5, the Hindu nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi scrapped Article 370, revoked Jammu and Kashmir's statehood and split it into two federal territories: one called Jammu and Kashmir, the other called Ladakh.

Mr. Modi’s argument is that “mainstreaming” Kashmir will deter terrorism and separatism and lift barriers to investment there. The economic argument is flawed: Kashmir already outperforms India on measures such as life expectancy, literacy and poverty, and its economy has been growing steadily this decade. To the Modi government’s critics, opening up Kashmir to outside business interests is really a strategy to assimilate it into India by allowing more Hindus to purchase real estate and apply for government jobs there, tilting the demographic balance in India’s favour.

Where Pakistan stands

Islamabad, Aug. 6: Supporters of the Jamaat-e-Islami party shout anti-Indian slogans during a protest.

Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images

Pakistan has denounced the changes to Kashmir’s constitutional status as illegal and has downgraded its diplomatic ties with New Delhi, expelled the Indian ambassador and suspended trade and train services. The government is also pushing for an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council, saying India’s move threatens international peace and could lead to ethnic cleansing and genocide.

On Pakistan’s Aug. 14 independence day, Prime Minister Imran Khan made his first visit to the Pakistani part of Kashmir, called Azad Kashmir, where he gave a speech in the capital, Muzaffarabad. There, he accused Mr. Modi’s government of planning military action to assert Indian control over the whole Kashmir valley: “The Pakistani army is fully aware that they [India] have made a plan of taking action in Azad Kashmir,” he said.

Where China stands

China's President Xi Jinping, right, shakes hands with Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan before an April meeting in Beijing.

Madoka Ikegami/Getty Images

China has also denounced India’s actions in Kashmir, supporting Pakistan in taking up the issue at the UN Security Council at an emergency meeting on Aug. 16. Beijing’s stand against the crackdown in Kashmir has been met with some skepticism, given that the tactics used there – communication blackouts, heavy street security, official rhetoric denouncing terrorism and separatism – are also employed in China’s crackdown on Uyghur Muslims in its western region of Xinjiang. The Kashmir situation “sounds eerily similar to what has been done in China,” Saba Naqvi, author of a book on the recent history of Mr. Modi’s BJP party, told The Globe and Mail.

More reading

The Globe in Kashmir: Reporting from Nathan VanderKlippe

‘All of Kashmir is ours!’ With Modi’s new map of India, Hindu nationalists chart a bolder course

India tightens grip in Kashmir with mosque closings, heavy military presence

Analysis and commentary

Sonya Fatah: Where are the Kashmiris? Caught between two extremes

Editorial: After Kashmir, is India becoming an illiberal democracy?


Compiled by Globe staff

Associated Press and Reuters, with reports from Nathan VanderKlippe

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