Both India and Pakistan claim the Kashmir Valley, a predominantly Muslim region. The valley was once a unique and idyllic patch of India, filled with apple orchards and shimmering fields of saffron framed by spiky, snow-capped peaks. Kashmir’s mosaic of relatively peaceful coexistence first began to crack during the partition of British India, in 1947. Sixty years of bitterness, including two wars, have followed.
For decades, India maintained hundreds of thousands of security forces in Kashmir to fight an insurgency sponsored by Pakistan. The insurgency has been largely vanquished. But those Indian forces are still in place, and have faced major popular unrest in recent times. From 2008 to 2010 more than 100 civilians were killed in clashes between stone-throwing protesters and heavily armed security forces in Srinagar, the state’s major city. Each death prompted a fresh set of angry demonstrations that prompted even tougher crackdowns, leading to more bloodshed. The valley’s economy virtually collapsed.