In the late 1980s, the conflict took a new turn when Muslim guerrillas entered the struggle for the part of Kashmir that India controls. During the 1980s, dissatisfaction with the Indian government had increased, especially with the advance of the Indian security service in the area. At the same time, a wave of revival swept through the Muslim world. Kashmiri youths went to Pakistan for military training and weapons, guerrilla groups were formed and a series of assassination attempts were carried out on leading members of the ruling party in Kashmir, the National Conference.
From the beginning, the guerrillas consisted of only a few hundred men and they came almost exclusively from the Indian-controlled Kashmir. Soon, however, the members could be counted in the thousands and an increasing number came from outside, including from Pakistan.
The Muslim groups often have different goals, and groups that were strong a few years ago have lost strength while others have taken their place. What everyone can agree on is that India’s influence over Kashmir will cease. However, they do not agree on whether Kashmir should become independent or join Pakistan.
Many of the new militant groups that have emerged in the last 10-15 years have radical Islamist views and their influence has increased at the expense of the non-religious groups. This is partly because Pakistan has long encouraged pro-Pakistani groups, and partly because a large number of Muslim soldiers entered the area from Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001.
The largest Kashmiri guerrilla group is the pro-Pakistani Hizbul Mujahedin. Its members come mainly from Kashmir, but it is also believed to have bases in Pakistan. Other militant Muslim groups, such as Harkat-ul-Mujahedin, can be described as international brigades with mainly Afghans, Pakistanis and men from various Arab countries in their ranks. They are also believed to have bases in Pakistan.
Of the groups fighting for an independent Kashmir, the umbrella organization All Parties Hurriyat (Freedom) Conference (APHC) is one of the largest. Hurriyat includes perhaps about 20 groups, including trade unions and various religious and political organizations, and probably also the political branches of certain militant groups – this despite the fact that Hurriyat in every way tries to distance itself from violence in its struggle.
In recent years, there have been two groups in particular: Lashkar-e-Taiba (“Soldiers of the Faithful”) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (“Muhammad’s Army”). The former belongs to a strict branch of Sunni Islam and has mainly attracted members outside Kashmir. The group has its roots in a Koranic school in Pakistan. Lashkar-e-Taiba strengthened its influence in 1999, when the Kashmir conflict was once again close to leading India and Pakistan to war.
Lashkar-e-Taiba has strongly influenced the way the armed struggle is conducted in Kashmir. On the one hand, the group has used suicide bombers to blow up military bases in Jammu and Kashmir, and on the other hand, it has also acted elsewhere in India. It has, among other things, been linked to the terrorist attack in Mumbai (Bombay) in the autumn of 2008, when 166 people were killed. Lashkar-e-Taiba’s goal is to re-establish Muslim rule throughout India (large parts of India were ruled by Muslim rulers for hundreds of years, until the British took power in the 19th century).
Loosely cohesive network
Jaish-e-Mohammad was formed in 1999 and is believed to have the support of a large number of Koranic schools and religious seminars in Pakistan. In the autumn of 2001, the group attacked the state parliament in Jammu and Kashmir, killing almost 40 people. It is also accused, along with Lashkar-e-Taiba, of being behind the 2001 attacks on Lucia Day against the Indian Parliament in New Delhi (see below).
Of the total of around 25 different armed groups fighting in Jammu and Kashmir – most of them small and local – almost all are affiliated to the United Jihad Council (UJC) based in Pakistani Kashmir. The UJC, in turn, is loosely linked to Hurriyat.
According to a2zdirectory, India claims that Pakistan supports all the militant groups directly with weapons and education. Pakistan officially denies this, claiming that the support is only political, diplomatic and moral.
Since the guerrillas took up the fight in 1989, according to Indian estimates, up to 50,000 people have been killed in Kashmir; according to Pakistan, upwards of 100,000 would have died.
The conflict over Kashmir is particularly worrying given that both India and Pakistan have nuclear weapons. In 1998, the world held its breath as the two countries conducted nuclear tests. In April, Pakistan had tested a medium-range missile for nuclear weapons. It was probably this that prompted India to carry out five underground nuclear explosions in Rajasthan a month later. Two weeks later, Pakistan announced that it had also conducted five nuclear tests. The outside world reacted strongly, not least given the tense situation in Kashmir. In 2012, both countries tested long-range missiles.
The outside world may prefer that the line of control becomes a border and that Kashmir is given far-reaching autonomy. For India and Pakistan, it is not that simple. The Indian constitution states that Kashmir as a whole belongs to India; Pakistan has committed itself to allowing Kashmir itself to decide its future in a referendum. India in particular has consistently rejected all external mediation. In both countries there are extreme groups that would refuse to approve a compromise. However, there are said to be many in both the Indian and Pakistani political leaderships who could in fact imagine a permanent division of Kashmir along the line of control.