Legally, Jammu & Kashmir is an integral and inseparable part of India. The British had ruled India as one undivided country made up of many provinces and princely states. When they left, India was partitioned into two separate countries. The new country, as mentioned earlier, was called Pakistan. The British as well as the leaders of both India and Pakistan had agreed to one basic principle - every inch of land must go either to India or to Pakistan. In other words, people living in India before the partition of 1947, had only two options: they could either join Pakistan or they could join India. They could not remain independent.
Jammu & Kashmir was actually an exception. The Maharaja of the State had wanted time to decide whether he should join Pakistan or join India. But the rulers of Pakistan did not want to give him the opportunity to decide and instead attacked his state, killing hundreds of people and causing extensive damage to property.
According to the agreement on which the partition of India was based, the rulers of princely states, like Jammu & Kashmir, had the absolute right to decide whether they wanted to join Pakistan or India. There was never any question of holding a referendum or a plebiscite. All the same, the then Prime Minister of India, Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru, agreed to hold a plebiscite because he was a democrat and wanted to find out what the people of the state of Jammu & Kashmir wanted.
The plebiscite was not held because Pakistan refused to vacate the large parts of Jammu & Kashmir that had been occupied by its soldiers. The plebiscite was meant for all the people of the state of Jammu & Kashmir and not just for those who lived in the Kashmir Valley. But the Pakistanis felt that the parts of the state they had captured was theirs and would not part with it. Pakistan defied the agreement reached by the world body called the United Nations and refused to vacate its troops. The powerful countries of the world did nothing to ensure that Pakistan honoured the UN Resolutions on Jammu & Kashmir. India could not therefore hold a plebiscite.
In 1947, when the Pakistanis attacked Jammu & Kashmir, the most popular leader of that state was a man named Sheikh Abdullah. He was a friend of the Indian Prime Minister, Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru. Both men believed in secularism, which is a concept that allows people of all religions and creeds to live together. Pakistan, on the other hand, was created on the basis of religion. The leaders of Pakistan wanted a country where only Muslims would rule. Indian leaders, on the other hand, felt that anybody could rule as long as the people elected that person. Sheikh Abdullah preferred the idea of secularism. He therefore wanted Jammu & Kashmir to be part of India rather than part of Pakistan. At the same time, the Hindus who were a majority in the Jammu region, also did not want to join Pakistan. Nor did the Buddhists of Ladakh. Since all these groups wanted to be with India, there was no point in holding a referendum on the Indian side of Jammu & Kashmir. Also, in 1954, the people on the Indian side of Jammu & Kashmir elected a government of their own. This government made it clear that their state was part of India and not part of Pakistan. Officially speaking, they "ratified Jammu & Kashmir's accession to India". This meant that henceforth there could be no question of holding a plebiscite in the state of Jammu & Kashmir.
A plebiscite cannot be held today for two reasons. Firstly, Pakistan continues to illegally occupy a large chunk of Jammu & Kashmir and does not allow the people here any freedom of choice. In most parts of the Pakistani occupied part of Jammu & Kashmir, the local people have no democratic rights. They cannot elect a government and they cannot dare to even talk against Pakistan for fear of being killed. For all practical purposes, the territory and the people captured by Pakistan in 1947 have been incorporated into Pakistan. These people have always been ruled by Pakistan and have not been given the opportunity to learn what democracy is all