Independent Kashmir

An incomplete aspiration

This book examines the topic of an independent ‘Kashmir’ and why this political aspiration to be self-governing and free from coerced subordination to another nation remains unsatisfied. It focuses on how Maharaja Hari Singh, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah and Muslim Kashmiris have envisioned or sought independence for Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), or for their particular region within this disputed entity. Hari Singh and Sheikh Abdullah were the two most significant figures in J&K in the twentieth century. They also were political rivals, united briefly in 1947 by not wanting J&K to join Pakistan and by an indecisive desire for an independent J&K. After acceding to India, Singh quickly became redundant. Through a tumultuous political career, Abdullah strove for independence or maximum autonomy for J&K. In 1988, disenchanted Muslim Kashmiris surprisingly began a violent anti-India uprising seeking azadi (independence, freedom) for their region or for it to join Pakistan. Kashmiris remain severely disgruntled and this insurgency continues to pose challenges for India. By concentrating on these two men and this insurgency, the book provides a focused, in-depth history of J&K from the mid-1920s, when Hari Singh became J&K’s ruler, to the present time, when many Kashmiris still crave azadi from India. While an ‘independent Kashmir’ is a long envisioned aspiration, the book concludes that it is likely to remain incomplete while India and Pakistan exist in their current structures, while India is strong and unified, and while Kashmiris are disunified and uncertain about what status they want for their homelands.

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