The restive Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), whose political status was dramatically overhauled yesterday (Aug. 5) by the Narendra Modi government, has rarely been free of controversy.
The modification of a constitutional provision that grants J&K special status—a greater degree of autonomy than that enjoyed by other Indian states—has been hotly contested since its creation in 1950.
Those against this provision, Article 370, have argued that all three parts of the state—the Muslim-dominated Kashmir valley, the Hindu-majority Jammu, and Ladakh, which has considerable Buddhist presence—should not have laws independent of the Indian constitution. India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party subscribed to this school of thought.
This section also fears neighbouring Pakistan’s influence on Kashmir and its attempt to capture more territory in the Kashmir valley.
The modern political history of the state itself is a tale of its often changing status beginning in the 19th century, turmoil following India’s partition in 1947, and simmering uncertainty since then.
Here is a timeline of J&K and Article 370 through key events in modern times:
1846: Maharaja Gulab Singh, a Dogra ruler, buys the region of Jammu & Kashmir from the East India Company after signing the Treaty of Amritsar (pdf).
1930s: Kashmiri Muslims are unhappy with the then maharaja Hari Singh’s rule and feel his policies are prejudiced against them. This is also the time J&K’s first major political party, the National Conference (NC), is born along with its founder, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah’s, political debut. The Quit Kashmir movement against the maharaja is launched.
August 1947: India gains independence from the British empire, Pakistan is created as a Muslim-majority country. India’s princely states, those not officially with India or Pakistan, are given three choices—stay independent or join either India or Pakistan. Three such states are undecided—Junagadh, Hyderabad, and J&K. Indian home minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel works to convince the undecided princely states to join India; Maharaja Hari Singh signs a standstill agreement with Pakistan, effectively opting for status quo.
October 1947: Armed tribesmen from Pakistan infiltrate J&K, Hari Singh realises he needs Indian help. He reaches out to prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Patel who agree to send troops on the condition that the maharaja signs an instrument of accession (IoA) in favour of India (pdf), handing over control of defence, foreign affairs, and communication. Hari Singh signs the IoA, Indian troops move in. The armed conflict continues.
January 1948: India takes the Kashmir issue to the United Nations (UN), raising concerns over Pakistan’s forced occupation of parts of Kashmir. The UN suggests a plebiscite, but India and Pakistan can’t agree on how to demilitarise the region. The conflict continues through 1948.
March 1948: Hari Singh appoints an interim government in J&K. Sheikh Abdullah named the prime minister.
January 1949: The UN mediates a ceasefire between Indian and Pakistan—also known as the Karachi Agreement—allowing the two countries to retain control over territories held at the time. No agreement on referendum yet.
July 1949: Hari Singh abdicates in favour of his son Karan Singh. Sheikh Abdullah and three colleagues join the Indian constituent assembly to discuss provisions of Article 370 under the Indian constitution that is still being drafted.
1950: The Indian constitution comes into force. Under this, Article 1 defines J&K as a state of India, Article 370 accords special status to J&K.
1951: The constituent assembly of J&K, the body responsible for creating the state’s constitution, convenes. All members belong to Sheikh Abdullah’s NC.
1952: Kashmiri leaders discuss their relationship with the union of India in the J&K constituent assembly. This leads to a comprehensive Delhi Agreement (pdf) that defines the relationship of the state with the union.
1953: Sheikh Abdullah is dismissed as prime minister allegedly because he had lost the support of his cabinet. Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad takes his place.
1954: A presidential order extends several provisions of the Indian constitution to J&K’s constitution.
1956: J&K adopts its constitution (pdf) and defines itself as an integral part of India.
1957: The J&K holds its first legislative elections. J&K constituent assembly dissolved, replaced by a legislative assembly. Indian home minister Govind Ballabh Pant visits Srinagar, the capital city of J&K, and says the state is now fully a part of India. This leaves no possibility of a plebiscite.
1960: Both supreme court and election commission of India extend jurisdiction over J&K through an amendment in its constitution.
1962: China gains control of Aksai Chin region in J&K after a war with India.
May 1965: Titles of prime minister and sadr-i-riyasat officially changed to chief minister and governor, respectively.
June 1965: Abdullah’s NC merges with the Indian National Congress.
August 1965 to January 1966: War between India and Pakistan. Indian prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and Pakistani president Ayub Khan sign the Tashkent Declaration marking the end of war.
1966: There is a revival of demand for a referendum in J&K and several armed outfits spring up in the region. These include the Plebiscite Front and the Jammu & Kashmir National Liberation Front (JKLF).
1971: A third war erupts between India and Pakistan.
1972: India and Pakistan sign the Simla Agreement which ratifies the ceasefire line as the Line of Control.
1975: Prime minister Indira Gandhi and Sheikh Abdullah sign Kashmir Accord, reemphasising Article 370, and J&K as an integral part of India. Gandhi says the “clock cannot be put back in this manner” to pre-1953 relations between the Indian Union and J&K, suggesting that a referendum is not possible. Sheikh Abdullah drops the demands for a plebiscite and resumes power as chief minister of J&K with Congress support.
1977: Congress-JKNC split; Congress withdraws support for Sheikh Abdullah’s government, paves way for central rule.
July 1977: Elections held in J&K, Sheikh Abdullah re-elected.
1977 to 1989: J&K sees a steady rise of militant outfits, several unstable governments, and arrests and killings of militant youth.
1990: Kashmiri youth take to streets to protest against Indian administration and hundreds of them die in clashes with Indian troops. Central rule declared just as outfits like JKLF gain strength. Kashmiri Pandits (Hindu Brahmins) flee their hometowns in Kashmir valley in the face of rising militancy. The central government imposes the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, giving armed forces unprecedented powers to counter armed militancy.
1990s: Militant insurgency on the rise. Several separatists, including Yasin Malik, arrested. The government of India tries to hold talks with various leaders in J&K. All Parties Hurriyat Conference, an alliance of 26 social and political movements, is established in 1993. A large number of civilians, armed personnel, and militants die in incessant violent clashes.
1995: Prime minister PV Narasimha Rao makes a statement in parliament assuring that Article 370 will not be abrogated. He reiterates that J&K is an integral part of India and that he wants president’s rule to end.
February 1996: India bans JKLF.
September 1996: Assembly elections held in J&K. JKNC’s Farooq Abdullah forms government.
November 1996: The centre appoints a committee to study the issue of autonomy to J&K.
1997: The national human rights commission sets up a J&K chapter to investigate human rights violations there.
1998: India and Pakistan test nuclear weapons.
February 1999: Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee visits Pakistan.
June 1999: India and Pakistan go to war over Pakistan’s infiltration in Kargil.
December 1999: Indian Airlines flight, IC-814, from Delhi to Kathmandu hijacked by militants. India releases three militants in exchange for the flight and the passengers on board to be brought back safely to Delhi.
October 2001: The legislative assembly in Srinagar is attacked.
December 2001: Armed militants attack Indian parliament in New Delhi.
2004: Indo-Pakistani relationship stabilises after decades of instability. Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh meets Pakistani president General Pervez Musharraf.
2005 to 2008: Clashes between armed forces, militants, and protesting civilians continue in J&K, but not on the same scale as during the peak of militancy.
November 2008: Terrorists affiliated to the Lashkar-e-Taiba attack various public places, including prominent luxury hotels, in the port city of Mumbai.
2010: Protests erupt in J&K over a young militant’s killing.
2011: J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah pardons 1,200 stone pelters. The Indian human rights commission finds 2,000 unmarked graves near the LoC.
2013: Afzal Guru hanged for his role in the 2001 attack on parliament.
March 2015: The BJP forms a government in J&K with People’s Democratic Party for the first time.
April 2016: Mehbooba Mufti becomes chief minister after the death of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, her father.
July 2016: Burhan Wani, another young militant, killed in shootout with armed forces. J&K state erupts in massive protests. Curfew imposed for several months.
September 2016: Armed militants attack Indian Army base in Uri, J&K. The army retaliates with surgical strikes across the LoC.
July 2017: Thousands of residents of J&K take to the streets to commemorate Burhan Wani’s death. Militants attack pilgrims on their way to the revered Hindu shrine of Amarnath.
June 2018: BJP government pulls out of alliance with PDP.
November 2018: Governor Satya Pal Malik dissolves legislative assembly.
December 2018: Central rule declared in the state.
February 2019: A vehicle loaded with explosives crashes into an Indian paramilitary convoy, killing 40 personnel. India carries out retributive strikes on terror camps across the LoC in Pakistan’s Balakot region. An Indian Air Force pilot captured by Pakistan and later released.
May 2019: The BJP returns to power for a second term in India.
July 2019: US president Donald Trump offers to mediate the Kashmir issue between India and Pakistan.
August 2019: Reports suggest a large number of Indian troops have been moved into J&K. Pilgrims to Amarnath asked to return. This is because a landmine with Pakistani markings has been found along the pilgrimage route.
August 4: Prominent Kashmiri leaders, including former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, placed under house arrest. Internet and mobile services curtailed, and section 144, which prevents a gathering of more than four people in public spaces, imposed.
August 5: Home minister Amit Shah proposes a presidential order to repeal Article 370 and 35A. J&K to be bifurcated as two union territories of Ladakh (centrally administered) and J&K (with its legislative assembly). Opposition parties protest in parliament; complete shutdown in Kashmir valley.