History of Kashmir

The large Indian subcontinent was very different from what it is today. From colonial rule to gaining independence and consolidation of states, India had to go through many challenges and changes. One major change which broke not only the country but also millions of hearts was the Partition.

During the British rule, India was divided into provinces, areas of the country which were directly under the administration of the British, and Princely states, territories which were ruled by kings or princes who accepted the supremacy of the British and agreed to rule according to them.

Jammu and Kashmir was a princely state during the colonial rule. This area of 2,22,441 square kilometres is now Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh (parts of India), Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan (under the control of Pakistan), and Xinjiang and Tibet (administered by China). 

Religious History 

Jammu and Kashmir is rich in terms of its religious history. It is associated with Buddhism, Shaivism (now a part of Hinduism) and Islam, three of the majorly followed religions in the world. At first, Hinduism was popularly followed in this area. However, when Ashoka assumed the throne of this kingdom, Buddhism was introduced here. Under his reign, grand stupas as well as temples dedicated to Lord Shiva were built, which shows harmonious existence of the two religions. It was through Kashmiri Buddhist missionaries that Buddhism became widely followed in Tibet and known in China. The corruption, heavy taxation and constant fighting under the Lohara dynasty gave way to foreign invasions. A Tibetan Buddhist took the throne from a Turkish-Mongol chief and, due to political reasons, converted into Islam.

Eventually, Islam replaced Hinduism as the dominant religion in Kashmir. Rulers of Jammu and Kashmir treated all of their subjects equally, irrespective of the religion they followed, with the exception of a few who imposed taxes on the non-Muslims and favoured the ones who followed Islam. 

After Mughal rule in Kashmir, Sikhs took over. Initially, their rule was oppressive and they introduced many anti-Muslim measures but later, the Sikh rulers became more considerate towards farmers. The status of Muslim subjects did not change. 

Today, it is a home of multiple religions with Buddhism, Islam, Sikhism and Hinduism still dominating the area. 

British Raj and Independence 

The Sikh ruler of Jammu and Kashmir, Gulab Singh, won the trust of British and sided with them. The loyalty of the Sikhs proved favourable for the British, especially during the revolt of 1857. However, the Princely state never became a true state because its residents did not connect with each other or the rulers. When the colonial rule ended, the British left the decision of whether the Princely States should unite with India or Pakistan, or become independent states with the rulers of these states. This threatened the existence of the already-partitioned country. 

Maharaja Hari Singh, the monarch of J&K at the time, was yet to make a decision regarding accession of Jammu and Kashmir. When invaded by Pakistan, J&K needed the help of the Indian army to defend themselves. The Maharaja had to sign the Instrument of Accession to get assistance from India with special conditions. These conditions were translated into Article 370 which gave special status to the state. 

However, Article 370 was removed from the Indian Constitution in 2019. Further, the state has been divided into Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh which are now recognised as union territories. 

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