The first war between India and Pakistan, right after their independence from Britain and partition, was fought over Kashmir. After the cease-fire in 1948, India was left in control of roughly two-thirds of the region, including much of the Kashmir Valley, while Pakistan administered the rest.
That agreement came with many caveats, and the Indian government at the time promised Kashmir special status and substantial autonomy.
Over the years, much of that autonomy has been stripped away. Pakistan, meanwhile, has never recognized India’s claims on Kashmir, and many Pakistanis believe that Kashmir should be part of their country because it is majority Muslim, like Pakistan. Pakistani officials have long called on the United Nations to support a referendum that would allow Kashmiri residents to choose for themselves.
This week, India’s Supreme Court is scheduled to hold a hearing on part of the law that gives Kashmir special status. Some of Mr. Modi’s political allies have been eager to take away the last of the special measures, such as rules that prohibit outsiders from owning land in Jammu and Kashmir, and a case has been brewing in court.
Many analysts said that if the Supreme Court diluted these special measures, Kashmir would explode in protests and the Indian government would respond with a deadly crackdown. The Indian troop movements in the past few days may be in preparation for such an uprising.
Many Kashmiris are now hunkered down in their homes, afraid to step outside. People also fear for their safety along the so-called Line of Control between India and Pakistan, where there are frequent exchanges of artillery and gunfire.
On Sunday, Karim-ud-Din Khan, an older herder, abandoned his home near the border after Indian and Pakistani troops began pounding each other’s posts. An artillery shell exploded in his courtyard and Mr. Khan ordered his family of six to pack up.
The reason he left was simple: “It looked like a war might break out soon,” he said.