Kashmir, according to recent reports, has been more peaceful over the past few years than it has been for decades. Tourism is at record levels, there is no news of riots or disappearances or extremism.But things are still tense under the surface. Kashmir’s Grand Mufti tried to convince the government to outlaw the Ahmadiyyas, a minority sect of Islam. At least one radical, Saudi-financed and Pakistani-supported missionary has been trying to whip up sectarian hatreds. Then last weekend, a 200-year old Muslim shrine was burned to the ground, prompting three days of civil disobedience, strikes, and a heavy police presence in Kashmir’s capital, Srinagar. NYT:
It is still unclear what started the fire Monday that destroyed a shrine that held a few relics from Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jeelani, an 11th-century saint known widely as Ghaus-e-Azam who is buried in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.The fire sparked angry protests by thousands demanding an end to Indian rule in the disputed Himalayan territory. Several clashes erupted, with police using tear gas to disperse stone-throwing crowds, and 30 protesters and 10 officers were injured.Separatists have dismissed the government’s promise to investigate the blaze and are demanding an independent probe.
Kashmir is the world’s only territory that is actively disputed between two nuclear powers. (Russia and China have some differences of opinion over their boundaries and there were armed clashes over these back in the 1960s, but those issues have been quiet for quite a while.) Add the tensions within the state between different religious and sectarian groups and the different shades of opinion over whether Kashmir’s future should like with India, with Pakistan or with neither, and you have what potentially could be the most explosive situation in the world.I have tentative plans to visit Kashmir later this year; if the trip works out I will look forward to sharing what I learn with readers of this blog.