When you try to locate the territory of Kashmir on a world map, you will find it partitioned into Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK, called ‘Azaad Kashmir’ and ‘Northern Areas’, in Pakistan), India Occupied Kashmir (IOK, called ‘Jammu and Kashmir’ including ‘Ladakh’, in India), and areas such as Aksai Chin and Shaksam Valley under Chinese control (part of ‘Xinjiang autonomous region’).
Yet, even as it is devoured by the big states that surround it, Kashmir cannot be understood through the simplistic framing of ‘India versus Pakistan’, ‘Hindu versus Muslim’, or ‘China allied with Pakistan versus India’. Instead, see Kashmir as a vital link in the Himalayan mountain chain; a historic part of the Silk Route, that is now a violent battleground. Why? Because people in none of these three regions identify themselves as primarily and ‘above all’ Pakistani, Indian, or Chinese. Neither should they be forced to.
Cartography might lie, but topography and cultural geography does not. Kashmir is not India. Kashmir is not Pakistan. Kashmir is not China. Kashmir is the boundary zone of India-China-Pakistan. But it is distinctively Kashmir. And its people – whatever their religion or national identity – are Kashmiris. In the guise of crude nationalist narratives peddled by the surrounding post-colonial states for internal politicking and international leverage, their history is being stolen from the Kashmiri people.
Safiyyah Sabreen studied Mechanical Engineering and is currently pursuing her Master's in Philosophy. She is the Content Director for KNOW. Being interested in the field of Islam and Science and Islamic Eschatology, she produced a documentary on the Golden Age of Islam and directs the Second Golden Age series.