But equally there have been massacres of Muslims in Jammu region, the southern part of Kashmir. In Jammu, you've got a much more even mix of religions. You've got areas where you have 50-50 or 60-40 Hindu-Muslim populations. In these areas, there's been a lot more communal violence. There's been deliberate targeting of another faith group to persuade members of that faith group to leave the area. And reprisal attacks.

All of these have been blamed on sectarianism, on religious fundamentalism on both sides. But sometimes the real motivation has been property disputes, land disputes, wedding disputes--disputes between families. The general rubric "here's another instance of religious violence" doesn't always apply.

India wants to position itself as a secular and diverse nation.

Absolutely. To India, Kashmir is desperately important because it symbolizes Indian secularism. It's the only Muslim majority state in India.

Do Indian Muslims who do not live in Kashmir feel that way?

Yes, pretty much. One of the arguments India deploys against the separation of Kashmir from India is that if Kashmir left, then what would happen to the remaining Muslims living in India? Might they then be faced with communal violence, might India unravel?

Do you think that's possible?

I personally don't find that a very persuasive argument. But it's an argument that's widely held in Delhi. In Pakistan, Kashmir is important because it's a Muslim majority province, it's seen as the unfinished business of partition. There's a widespread belief in Pakistan that Kashmiris (and this may or may not be borne out by what Kashmiris actually want) have been denied their rights to self-determination, that as Muslims that majority would choose to join Pakistan.

One shouldn't see religion, especially Islam, as the problem in Kashmir. Political Islam was certainly being used by militant groups in the late 1980s and the situation has been, in the late 1990s, hijacked by extreme Muslim groups. But there is still a fairly strong tradition of good intercommunal relations.

Meaning good interfaith relations?

Yes, interfaith. Quite a lot of intermingling. Obviously it's come under very strong challenge in the 1990s. Here's an interesting example: there are Shi'a Muslims in Kargil. These Shi'a Muslims on the Indian side of the line of control save up their money to send their kids to go study in Iran or Iraq. The post-revolutionary Iranian state has given a lot of money to Kargil to build mosques and religious schools. And yet there hasn't been a single militant volunteer from the Shi'as of Kargil. Not one of them has joined a militant group.

Even the Shi'a militant group--there is basically one Shi'a militant group in Kashmir--hasn't had a single volunteer from Kargil. It's a case study that runs against the prevailing wisdom, which is that religion inflames conflict--that particularly money associated with religious activities, schools, and training, would then lead to some forms of political violence. The Kargil example really belies that.

But there has been a breakdown in interfaith relations in Kashmir in the 1990s, in part because minorities have been forced out of the valley, and there's an increasing tendency to associate only with those of the same faith group. The real breakdown has been in education. In the early 1980s, if you were a Muslim boy and went to school in Kashmir, there would probably be at least one or two Hindus, and maybe one Sikh, in your class. And that's not happening anymore.

That's the real question: The next generation and the tolerance of interfaith relations in Kashmir.

Historically, before the present violence, there were only three incidents of communal violence in Kashmir: 1931, 1967, and 1986. Which, if you compare to the rest of South Asia, is a tremendous record. In 1947, when a lot of the rest if India was aflame with communal massacres, the Kashmir valley stayed remarkably calm. There was fighting, but it was between armed forces, not between communities.

But the education point is a real issue. Right now, Hindu kids from Kashmir will probably be going to schools in either refugee camps or in exclusively Hindu communities away from the valley. By the same token, Muslim kids in the valley will go to schools where it's very unlikely there will be Hindus. So they'll probably grow up with stereotypes about Hindus. That helps extremists on both sides, who I still think are the minority of the general population. But it helps them demonize the other faith group.

There's a Hindu temple in Kashmir, and the caretaker is a Muslim. His son was one of the most notorious militants of the 1990s. Despite the fact that the violence makes the headlines, and most people focus on the breakdown of relations, there is some basis for interfaith harmony in Kashmir. But it's under threat and there are questions about how to reconstruct it in the future.