The Three Main Regions of Jammu & Kashmir

Overview of the State
The total area of the State of Jammu and Kashmir is about 2,22,236 Sq Km, of which 78,114 Sq Km. is under the illegal occupation of Pakistan and 37,555 Sq km. under China. In addition to this, 5,180 Sq. Km. of J&K was illegally ceded to China by Pakistan under the March 1963 Sino-Pak Boundary agreement. The State shares a 221 km international boundary with Pakistan in the Jammu region and 365 km. with China in its Ladakh sector. The line of control (LoC), which divides the Indian and Pakistani parts of the state, is 1001 km long (Jammu-205 kms., Valley-460 kms. and Ladhakh/Siachin area-336 kms.). The border with China is 465 kms. long. Pakistan has annexed the districts of Dianer, Baltistan, Gilgit, Muzaffarabad, Kotii, Mirpur, Poonch and Bagh, which collectively have a population of about 2.5 million (1981 census). The people in the Pakistani part are almost all Muslims. The Chinese held territory is called Aksai Chin (meaning un-inhabited). The population of J&K State was around 5.9 million in the 1981 census. Though, no census was carried out in 1991, it is estimated that the total population of the state increased to 7. 72 million.

Map: Three Main Regions of Kashmir
Although the Indian part of Kashmir comprises of three natural divisions, for administrative purposes there are only two administrative divisions i.e. Kashmir Province (comprising the districts of Srinagar, Badgam, Pulwama, Anantnag, Kupwara, Baramulla, Leh and Kargil districts) and the Jammu Province (comprising Jammu, Kathua, Poonch, Rajouri, Udhampur and Doda districts).). The three natural divisions are - Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.

The People
Jammu and Kashmir is a multi-lingual, multi-religious and multiracial State and each group has its own distinct and peculiar cultural ethos further deepened by geographical divisions created by formidable mountain ranges. The Jammu region is dominantly Hindu with Muslims being in majority in certain areas. Most of the people speak Dogri.. In the mountains, there are three distinct communities with traits of their own viz. Gujjars, Bakerwals and Gaddis, who speak the Pahadi Language. The Kashmir Valley presents a heterogeneous population with two broad divisions i.e. Muslims and Kashmiri Pandits, both of whom speak Kashmiri, The people of Ladakh are believed to be descendants of a blended race of the Mons of North India, the Dards of Baltistan and the Mongols of Central Asia. Majority of the population is Buddhist. The Northern area occupied by Pakistan is inhabited by different races like Mongols, Tadjik, Kirghiz, Uygur, Yagis and others. The Muslim population is almost equally divided into three sects i.e. Sunni, Shia (Jaffaria) and Shia (Ismails). Sectarian violence is a common feature in the area because of Pakistan's official patronage of the minority Sunni community. The southern portion of POK, where the majority of people are concentrated (about 19 lakhs), the common language is Dogri or Punjabi.

Ruins like these dot Kashmir, reminders of the past.
Photo: Ruins like these dot Kashmir, reminders of the past.

Gilgit, Ladakh, Kashmir and Jammu have seen rise and fall of several kingdoms. For much of their history these areas existed as principalities. A few Kashmiri rulers like Lalitaditya and Awamivarman had their empire extending from Bengal in the east, the Konkan in the south, Turkistan in north-west and Tibet in the north. Kashmir passed into the hands of Muslims rulers in 1324 A.D. The most notable Muslim rulers of Kashmir were Zain-ul-Abedin and Yusuf Shah Chak. The Mogul emperor Akbar conquered Kashmir in 1587, but, Aurangzeb's successor was a weak ruler and in 1752 Kashmir was seized by the Afghan ruler Ahmed Shah Abdali. His reign is remembered as one of the most terrible in Kashmir's entire history. In 1819, the Sikh ruler of Punjab Maharaja Ranjit Singh evicted the Pathans from Kashmir with the help of the Dogra Army of Jammu. The Sikhs ruled Kashmir till their defeat by the British. Thereafter, Maharaja Gulab Singh of Jammu paid Rs. 75 lakhs to the East India Company in 1846 in exchange for Kashmir and some other areas under a treaty later named as 'Treaty of Amritsar'. Jammu and Kashmir as a single entity was unified and founded by Maharaja Gulab Singh on March 16,1846. Zorawar Singh, a General in Dogra Anny later led his daredevil campaigns in northern areas like Ladakh, Baltistan, Gilgit, Hunza and Yagistan, consolidating smaller principalities and making the northern areas a part of the expanding dominions of Maharaja Gulab Singh.