So, the world's most prominent arch rivals are once again celebrating their independence days. Just peeping into the past, the independence of India and Pakistan in August 1947 was overshadowed by the unforgettable traumas of partition.
The case of our state, comprising Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh regions, was all the more complicated because a Hindu ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh, ruled the state despite it being a Muslim-majority state.
Initially, the Maharaja was for 'outright independence', but in October 1947 he signed the Instrument of Accession to India. Tribal 'raiders' from Pakistan 'voluntarily' entered the Kashmir Valley and annexed a part of it which Pakistan calls 'Azad Kashmir' and for India it's 'Pak Occupied Kashmir'.
A parallel group from Gilgit quickly captured Skardu (Baltistan) and marched on to Leh. But Indian reinforcements defended Leh. Later the ceasefire line imposed in January 1949 cut off Ladakh and Baltistan from each other ever since and the region is today well known as Northern Area.
Since then we have witnessed regular uprisings here challenging the instrument of accession. However, on this independence day, let me also revisit tales of two kinds of internal violence.
Kashmir has never come out of miseries. We have families whose bread earners have been consumed by the conflict. We have innumerable children who lost their parents during the turmoil and most of them are wandering as orphans for support to live and grow. We have old aged parents whose sons fell to bullets and have no one at home to support them.
And there are women called 'half-widows', as their husbands disappeared after they were picked up either by military, paramilitary and police personnel or by the unidentified gunmen.
However, the least focussed tale is of Ladakh region which almost remained isolated from this conflict situation. Even as Kargil war was one of the off shoots of the continuing resistance movement, the local populace evinced no interest in joining the separatist cry. When conflict stricken regions of Jammu & Kashmir were busy in navigating safely, it was the Ladakh region which enjoyed autonomy through their hill councils. But what one missed during the period was the internal conflict within the region that has now reached to alarming proportions. Element of mistrust looming large in the region is decades old story. It has led to conflict which was off and on controlled but not eliminated.
Few days incident of violent attack by a group of Buddhists on Kargil taxi drivers in Leh bear testimony of this fact that the two religious communities are not living in peace. Unnoticed though, the political identity of Ladakh has today grown as a big issue. One community has remained engaged in strengthening their campaign for Union Territory status whereby Ladakh would be administered direct from New Delhi. Another segment has been pitching for Greater Ladakh aiming to include Gilgit, Skardu and Baltistan.
Another unnoticed story in the region is that of protecting, restoring or reinventing Buddhism in Ladakh has today emerged as a big challenge for the Buddhists living there. The traditional Buddhist values stand threatened. Young generation of Buddhists who might once have become monks now have many other life-opportunities to choose from, and traditional Buddhist festivals now have to compete with the lure of entertainment industry.
The presence of large numbers of obviously wealthy foreign tourists stimulates dreams of unlimited wealth. But the old simple but contented way of life is fast disappearing among Buddhists. Alarming reports from the regions have time and again surfaced that the young one today who have now exposure have become violent and are mostly influenced by the communal forces.
Meanwhile, instead of engaging in the process of total integration of the state into the Indian union, the authorities at the helm on this independence day should find out why Kashmir failed to come up as one of India's strongest economies.
(The views are of the author & not the institution he works for)