Kashmir 101: Decoding Kashmir's conflict

For six decades, a piece of land about the size of Britain between Pakistan and India has been the source of major tension and fighting between the two. But recently, the nature of the lengthy conflict has changed. In India-controlled Kashmir, young people inspired by protests across the Middle East have intensified their push for independence – and they want the world to take note.

Here is a quick primer about the conflict.

Rouf Bhat/AFP/Newscom
Supporters of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, who seek independence from India, protested with torches in Srinagar in March.

1. Why is Kashmir a disputed territory?

When the British withdrew from the Indian subcontinent in 1947, a negotiated settlement partitioned the land between the newly independent states of India and Pakistan. Autonomous states such as Kashmir were given the choice of where to go.

The ruler of Kashmir was Hindu, while the majority of his subjects were Muslim. The partition deal had given other Muslim-majority states to Pakistan, a nation created to allay Muslim fears of becoming a minority in a Hindu-led nation.

But the prince chose India, enlisting the country's help in repelling fighters from Pakistani territory. A United Nations-brokered cease-fire called for the withdrawal of Pakistani forces and the holding of a popular vote to decide the region's fate. But Pakistan did not remove its forces and India never held the vote.

Periodic wars between India and Pakistan over Kashmir have left the territory split between the two (as well as China), with a de facto border known as the "Line of Control."

In the 1990s, religious militants from Pakistan joined indigenous fighters to battle Indian forces. India then used that to define the conflict as terrorism against its people, taking the international spotlight off the Kashmir issue of independence.

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