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Kashmir’s year of living dangerously

Volatile Indian-administered Kashmir has endured a tumultuous year since Prime Minister Narendra Modi revoked its autonomy last August.

Ahead of Wednesday’s one-year anniversary, AFP examines the background to the contentious move, the harsh security crackdown and its aftermath, and a deadly June border clash with China.

Why is Kashmir such a powder keg?

India and Pakistan have fought two wars over the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir since it was divided in 1947, and both still see it as fully their own – although China also controls small parts, and claims more.

A referendum mandated by a UN resolution in 1948 has never taken place.

For the past three decades, a revolt against Indian rule – backed by Pakistan, Delhi alleges -– and a muscular response has left tens of thousands dead, mostly civilians.

India and Pakistan regularly exchange fire across their de-facto frontier, and in February last year a suicide bomber killed 40 Indian troops – pushing the two nations to the brink of another war.

What did Modi want to achieve?  

Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party has long seen Muslim-majority Kashmir’s special status – with partial autonomy and its own flag and constitution – as a historical wrong. 

That status had “given nothing but terrorism, separatism, nepotism and big corruption” Modi said. But his “historic decision” would bring prosperity and peace.

His change put Kashmir under direct rule from New Delhi and downgraded the state by splitting it into two union territories – Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.

What happened on the ground?

An accompanying security operation was swift and heavy, with New Delhi sending in tens of thousands of troops to join the estimated half a million already there.

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