Tensions deflated in Kashmir last Wednesday as the Indian military killed two Kahmiri gunmen who had taken an Indian government building.
Kashmir is jointly governed by Pakistan and India, and has been a disputed territory since the regions gained independence from Great Britain in 1947. India and Pakistan both feel that they have a legitimate claim to the territory.
The people of Kashmir are far more partial to Pakistan than India and would prefer to either be governed by Pakistan totally or just have independence.
Disputes over the territory are not a new matter. India and Pakistan don’t like each other on good days, though the two have maintained an uneasy peace over the past ten years after the two countries teetered on the edge of nuclear war, a result of an attack on the Indian parliament.
Aminta Arrington, assistant professor of intercultural studies at John Brown University, said that the countries have always been tense with each other for a number of reasons. One of those reasons, she said, was religion. “There’s the religious conflict. Pakistan is primarily Muslim, India is primarily Hindu, though India is a mixture of religions, so there’s an underlying tension of religion, but the broader question is this: ‘who has the right to represent India?’”
When British India gained its independence, Arrington says, the people moved to their respective religious regions. “People on both sides had to leave their homelands. Those in India had to go into Pakistan, those in Pakistan, likewise had to go into India.”
According to Arrington, the splintering of its regions, Kashmir included, caused the country to question itself. “What’s the identity of India going to be? Is India a multireligious nation? Is it a Hindu nation? But Pakistan clings very much to its Muslim identity.”
“But linguistically, the two countries are very similar, culturally they’re very similar. Hindi and Urdu are essentially the same language, but Urdu is written in Arabic and Hindi in the Devanagari script, but they’re intelligible to one another, and even there is the split.”
The occupation of the government building in Kashmir comes after increased protests to Indian rule and a response by Indian forces that can only be described as a crackdown. In an attempt to pacify anti-Indian sentiments, Indian police arrested over 8,000 Kashmiri citizens this summer, according to Al Jazeera.
“Kashmir is disputed territory,” Said Arrington, “And this is another reason for all this underlying tension: the border’s not set.”
“Kashmir is being governed by India right now, but it’s 70 percent Muslim, and this puts a constant strain on the relations with India, but you can’t just say it’s religion, because it’s religion tied to identity, which is how religion is done in Asia.” Arrington said.
With the gunmen dead and removed from the government building, Kashmir is starting to return to status quo, though it remains to be seen how India, Pakistan and Kashmir will handle the growing tensions in the future.