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Dispelling the myths of Kashmir

16 62 0
09.09.2019

NEW DELHI – The Indian government’s recent decision to revoke Kashmir’s special semi-autonomous status has raised fears of yet another conflict with Pakistan over the disputed territory. But in order to understand the implications of the events unfolding in Kashmir — a heavily militarized geopolitical tinderbox situated at the crossroads of central Asia — it is essential to dispel the many myths and misunderstandings surrounding it.

The first myth relates to the name itself. While news reports focus on the “Kashmir region,” they often fail to note that Kashmir is only a small slice of the affected territory, called Jammu and Kashmir, which also includes the sprawling areas of Ladakh and Gilgit-Baltistan.

Moreover, calling Jammu and Kashmir a “Muslim-majority” region fails to reflect just how ethnically, culturally, and religiously diverse it is. Indeed, while Kashmir is majority Muslim, Jammu is majority Hindu; and the vast, sparsely populated Ladakh is traditionally Buddhist. Gilgit-Baltistan is also predominantly Muslim — Shiite Muslim, to be precise (though Pakistan has been encouraging Sunni Muslims to relocate there).

Jammu and Kashmir residents who speak the Kashmiri language are concentrated mainly in the Indian-administered, densely populated, predominantly Sunni-Muslim Kashmir Valley, which has become a hotbed of Pakistan-backed jihadists fighting to establish an Islamic emirate. In 1990, the jihadists launched a bloody campaign of ethnic cleansing, which drove virtually the entire native Hindu community........

© The Japan Times