As campaigning was gearing up for the 2019 Indian elections, there was a dangerous escalation in the long-simmering conflict between India and Pakistan. An attack on an Indian military convoy in Pulwama in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir in February 2019 killed more than 40 security personnel.
After a Pakistani-based militant group claimed responsibility, India responded by launching air strikes against suspected militant targets across the border in Pakistan and the world worried about the risk of war between the two nuclear-armed neighbours. The tension eventually diffused, but it was a stark reminder of the ongoing conflict and what it means for India.
In the third episode of India Tomorrow, a series from The Conversation’s podcast The Anthill, we focus on Kashmir: its history, the lives of its people, and the conflict over its future.
Kashmir has been the cause of tension between Pakistan and India since the Partition of India in 1947. Sarah Ansari, a historian at Royal Holloway, University of London, explains what happened during Partition and why Jammu and Kashmir became a source of conflict. We also explore the significance of Article 370, the part of the Indian constitution which gives special status to Jammu and Kashmir – and why some Indians want to scrap it.
Ather Zia, an anthropologist at the University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, explains what Kashmir means to her, and what life is like for Kashmiris today. “It’s my homeland and it’s also a place which is an open prison currently because of the situation that is prevailing,” she says. “People are living, but it’s under heavy repression.” She explains how her research is showing many Kashmiris have a long-held desire for independence.
We also find out what has happened in Kashmir since 2014 when Narendra Modi became prime minister of India, and his BJP party entered into a ruling coalition in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Sita Bali, a lecturer in international relations at Staffordshire University, says she thinks that the escalation – and subsequent de-escalation of tensions between India and Pakistan – could benefit Modi in the 2019 elections. And she explains what the nuclear element of the ongoing conflict means for the region: “This Pakistan problem, or the Kashmir problem, whichever way you choose to look at it, has always stood in the way of India’s relations in the whole region.”
The Anthill is produced by Gemma Ware and Annabel Bligh. Editing by Alex Portfelix. Thank you to City, University of London’s Department of Journalism for letting us use their studios to record The Anthill.
Picture source: khlongwangchao via Shutterstock.
Archive news clips:
Hum kya chahty Azadi (Kahmir), Mohtsim Billah
Narendra Modi’s first visit to Jammu and Kashmir as PM, Times Now
Kashmir witnesses worst violence in six years, Al Jazeera English
India Cheers Return Of Air Force Pilot Abhinandan Varthaman, NDTV
Indrajit Roy receives funding from the UK's Economic and Social Research Council.
Annabel Bligh works for The Conversation.