Muslim Insurgency in Kashmir, India 1988-Present

[ 1988 - 2014 ]

Another crisis in Kashmir, site of two wars between India and Pakistan since partition in 1947, began in 1988 when Kashmiri Muslims, feeling marginalized by the policies of the central government toward Kashmir, launched an armed struggle for autonomy. India responded by dispatching troops to the region in December 1989. This led to mass protests with the dissidents (there are 13 rebel groups, the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front being the most prominent) stepping up their campaign of bombings, kidnappings, and strikes against civillians, especially Hindus. Most of the Hindus, who constitute a minority in Kashmir, fled to refugee camps in Jammu and Delhi. Meanwhile, the Indian security forces were accused of horrendous human rights violations -- burnings, killings, abductions, rapes, and torture -- against detainees, Kashmiri civilians, and medical personnel. An increasingly alienated Muslim civilian population supported the secessionist movement. India refused to part with Kashmir while Pakistan supported the plebiscite in the hope that it would mean union with Pakistan but not independence. The murder of a prominent Muslim cleric in Srinagar in May 1990 led to massive protests and the resignation of the India-appointed governor. The Indian troops fired at the crowds, wounding 300 and killing 47 people. The two countries exchanged gunfire in 1990 and in 1991 and, in May 1991, Indian forces killed 66 militants in one week. In February 1992, Pakistan shot Azad Kashmir dissidents. In October 1993, troops surrounded the famous Hazratbal mosque in Srinagar where the rebels were reportedly hiding. Twenty-nine people died in the standoff. The destruction of the Char-e-Sharif, a 15th-century shrine dedicated to Kashmir's patron saint, in May 1995 led to retaliatory violence across the state. Curfew was imposed and 35 secessionists killed. Pakistan reportedly intensified its efforts to arm and train the rebels. The international community called on India to reduce its military presence (estimated at 500,000 to 700,000) in the region and to initiate a dialogue with the dissident groups. India announced plans to strengthen the democratic process in the state and to jump-start the state's economy by introducing development programs. It hoped to isolate the militants and deal with the situation on a proactivie basis. By the end of 1998, the struggle had claimed more than 20,000 lives, and no resolution appeared to be in sight.

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