'Free Kashmir', reads the placard held by a young Indian woman during an anti-Citizenship Amendment Act agitation at the Gateway of India, Mumbai, on 6 January 2020. That India cannot tolerate such 'separtist sentiments' is central to the outrage over the placard. People in her supporting circle defend it on the grounds that it meant freedom from Internet lockdown imposed since 5 August 2019 across Kashmir. The woman comes out with a statement: 'I was voicing my solidarity for the basic constitutional right'.
As Kashmiris, what does it mean to be shown solidarity with terms and conditions, one that disallows a Kashmiri from envisioning their freedom but dictates its meanings and interpretations for them? In our Identities piece, 'On Solidarity: Reading Love, Loss, and Longing in Kashmir', we engage with the question of solidarity through a critical reading of Sahba Husain’s book Love, Loss, and Longing in Kashmir. The multiple ways in which claims of solidarity are articulated by Indian ‘progressives’ often result in reflecting dominant narratives that obfuscate the lived realities of the occupied Kashmiri people. This is brought forth in the piece through an analysis of how the concepts of disillusionment, alienation, resilience find expression in these works.
Kashmiris have, over the decades, not only witnessed Indian State's war to suppress their aspirations of freedom, but also sugar-coated obfuscation by Indian academia and left-liberal activists of the popular struggle for Right to Self Determination. Quite rarely have Kashmiri voices for azadi been amplified the way Kashmiris articulate it. Most of the reports and works by Indians on Kashmir have otherwise been what Parrey (2019) refers to as ‘fact finding tourism’ – inaccurate and problematic.
A significant feature of such liberal, progressive works on Kashmir has also been to either present Kashmiri women as hapless victims, or needing to be saved from societal Islamic patriarchy. Their resistance and resilience is written as a spectacle, as if they have a choice in the matter when their homes and bodies are turned into battlegrounds. However, as Kashmiri women have shown over the years, they are not a spectacle when they are out on streets; they have been a significant presence alongside Kashmiri men demanding azadi. As they found their homes converted into battlefields, the women decided the terms of their participation in challenging the might of the Indian State. From the everyday acts of walking across militarised streets where they are subjected to the masculinist gaze of gun-wielding soldiers, to the institutionalised form of resistance through the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), for example, where personal loss finds expression in regular protests in the public sphere, women have refused to let a militaristic structure determine the form and structure of their resistance.
Despite widespread violence that has resulted in killings, enforced disappearances, sexual violence, torture, mass blinding, unmarked and mass graves, people have found ways to resist, to commit things to memory – every slogan on the street, every date that marks a massacre, form a part of the collective memory. But the State understands this memorialisation as threatening its very existence in Kashmir. In fact, APDP has been prohibited from even constructing a memorial in the memory of the disappeared. A marble plaque they tried to construct in Srinagar in 2002 was destroyed by the police within hours and two of its members were charged with trespassing.
In the years since militarisation of Kashmir, not only have acts of violence by Indian soldiers been perpetrated in the various physical structures of the State machinery including torture centres, camps, police stations, the streets, and even within the apparently safe spaces of homes, but entire neighbourhoods have been destroyed right from the initial days of counter-insurgency to break the will of the people. A news report quoted a retired lieutenant general of the Indian Army as saying that destroying houses has been a part of counter-insurgency, and there is no question of outrage, for ‘you are complicit’. Yet, conditional solidarities are extended to the ‘innocent Kashmiri civilian’ pitched in a binary against the violent Kashmiri other seeking freedom from India. The multi-layered military structure and its violent control necessitating multiple frontiers of resistance is either left out of due engagement or blamed on Kashmiris having been manipulated to commit violence.
When there are claims about solidarity with Kashmiris, it cannot be restricted to the Internet alone. Any genuine attempts at solidarity must understand and acknowledge these multiple layers in which the military occupation works: its physical, psychological, sexual manifestations in the everyday. The violations are a response to the Kashmiris’ demand for freedom from the Indian State, not within its constitutional framework. Therefore, we have argued that for Indians to ally with Kashmir, it is important to persistently re-centre Kashmiris’ articulations of a political imaginary that ensures freedom and a dignified life.
Parrey, A. A. 2019. Fact Finding Tourism. RAIOT, September 20.
Blog post by Mudasir Amin, Jamia Millia Islamia, India and Samreen Mushtaq, Ashoka University, India
Read the full article:
Amin, Mudasir & Mushtaq, Samreen. On Solidarity: Reading Love, Loss, and Longing in Kashmir. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2020.1737405
‘And so it begins. India’s settler-colonial project has arrived’, reads the headline of The Medium on the 31st of October 2019. It must be noted that Indian setter-colonialism arrived through a longer colonial engagement, a brutal history of Indian denial of Kashmiri self-determination since October 1947.
On the 5th of August 2019, the Indian government executed a legally questionable constitutional annexation of the state of Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir after placing Kashmiris under an unprecedented digital and physical lockdown, a military siege. Kashmir’s semi-autonomous status has long suffered what Duschinski and Ghosh have called a process of occupational constitutionalism. The Jammu and Kashmir Land Reorganisation Act 2019, enacted on the 5th of August, came into effect on the 31st of October 2019. Kashmiris, whose right to determine their political future has been denied for 72 years, will now no longer have the right to exclusive ownership in their land. The Indian government has been busily attracting domestic and foreign investment. A member of the upper house of the Indian Parliament has called for Indian settlers from the armed forces to move into Kashmir. These settler-colonial moves further militarise and destroy an already fragile ecology. Caged physically and digitally, Kashmiris face a demographic change. The Indian state’s record of widespread extrajudicial killings, torture, sexual assault, enforced disappearances and mass graves over the last 30 years has been referenced by the Office of the United Nations’ High Commissioner reports of 2018 and 2019. The militarisation and the threat of demographic change have prompted the US-based Genocide Watch to issue a genocide alert for Kashmir.
My Identities article, 'Kashmir and Palestine: itineraries of (anti) colonial solidarity', maps the arrival of Indian settler-colonialism through India’s relationship with another settler-colonial state, Israel. The article argues that Indian leftist as well as state anti-colonial solidarity with Palestine since 1947 must take account of India’s covert and overt relationship and arms trade with the state of Israel since the 1950s. The arms trade alliance is significant as successive Indian governments have intermittently expressed solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom with reference to India’s own anti-colonial struggle. In practice, these governments have been supporting the occupation of Palestine. Beyond this, India’s leftist solidarity with Palestine, concretely expressed through the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement in India, needs to take account of India’s colonial engagement with Kashmir since 1947, rather than place the blame solely on the current Hindu-nationalist or Hindutva government’s overt celebration of its alliance with Israel.
Kashmir and Palestine are significant for the India-Israel relationship. In a post-9/11 context, the master narrative of counter-terrorism has been seized upon by governments around the world to crush dissent as well as liberation struggles. The India-Israel burgeoning arms trade, now worth billions of dollars, is based on this narrative and cites the need to attack Palestinian and Kashmiri liberation struggles in the name of ‘counter-terrorism’. The Israel-India partnership in arms involves the deployment of counter-insurgency forces, drones and arms against other populations in India as well. But Kashmiri and Palestinian anti-colonial struggles are distinct targets; India-Israel relations embody a partnership in mutual colonial occupation and state violence in Kashmir and Palestine. This violence is all the more galling as the Indian state doles out development aid for Palestine even as it banks on its anti-colonial capital in its relationship with Palestinians.
The Latin term ĭtĭnĕrārĭus arrived into middle English with the connotation of a reflection on a journey. When I first began writing my article, ‘Kashmir and Palestine: itineraries of (anti) colonial solidarity’, I was not aware of this connotation. I am now struck by how appropriate the term is. In the article, I reflect upon my itinerary of learning about Indian colonialism and brutality in Kashmir, understanding the itineraries of kinship between networks of colonialisms, and learning of the resistance itineraries of solidarities between Kashmir and Palestine. This article is thus an invitation to reflect on the significance of Kashmiri anti-colonial struggle in developing a ‘shared vocabulary of struggle’, dreaming ‘freedom dreams’, as Professor Angela Davis argues, against settler-colonialism and state violence.
Blog post by Goldie Osuri, University of Warwick, UK
Read the full article: Osuri, Goldie. Kashmir and Palestine: itineraries of (anti) colonial solidarity. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2019.1675334
Read related Identities blog articles:
Decolonial solidarity in Palestine-Israel by Teodora Todorova
Everyday dilemmas of walking under curfew in Kashmir by Mohamad Junaid
It may be a truth not so universally acknowledged that editing a special issue of a journal can often be a nerve-wracking affair. Guest editing a forthcoming special issue for Identities titled 'Archives of Coloniality and Solidarity: Kashmir and Palestine, in medias res', goes beyond this experience. The razored concertina wires, the militarised checkpoints, the open brutality, the violence against the living and the dead, and the permanent warfare against entire populations that characterise the experiences of Palestinians and Kashmiris permeate this special issue. These experiences may not be exceptional to those editors and authors working on state violence and occupations. However, the experience itself must be acknowledged.
Author emails in the summer of 2019 demonstrate the porous ways in which the occupations of Palestine and Kashmir have pervaded this guest editing process.
Two months into the Kashmir siege — a complete communication blackout and a military blockade imposed on the 5th of August by the Indian state — a friend of an author who had visited Kashmir informed us that the author would be sending the paper via pen drive. As we write, 8–9 million people of the Kashmir Valley remain under siege, caged by a million Indian forces. Thousands of civilians including minors have been arbitrarily detained, including politicians, business leaders, clergy, university lecturers and students. Those not under detention face the brunt of India’s army and paramilitary forces who are marauding homes in night raids, molesting women, torturing ordinary people and harassing journalists. India’s political leaders, successors of Nazi-inspired fascism, deem this the new normal in Kashmir.
A co-authored photo essay, due on the 5th of August (the day the siege was imposed), is yet to be submitted. The Palestinian co-author sent us an anxious email about not being able to reach her Kashmiri counterpart: 'She doesn’t have Internet, the situation in Kashmir is very bad right now. I don’t know if we can submit it later'. Her mention of not knowing if they would be able to turn it in at all sums up the uncertainty and the injustice of life under occupation. Their photo essay is about gendered resistance and memory in Kashmir and Palestine. We continue to hope they will be able to submit soon.
For Ather Zia, co-editor of this special issue and a Kashmiri, the siege has been doubly fraught since she was not been able to reach family for a couple of months. The so-called ease on landline restrictions by the end of August was erratic. As we write this blog, only post-paid mobiles have been allowed to function. The Internet remains shut. Speaking and writing about Kashmir is part of the war against the ‘normalcy’ lie of the Indian state.
Scholarship on Palestine and Israeli settler-colonialism continues to proliferate. Yet, authors Nadera Shalhoub Kevorkian and Teodora Todorova illuminate some fresh aspects in this special issue. This summer Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian wrote to us of the incarcerated body of ‘a 14-year old child, Ezareyyeh Nassim Abu Roumi, allegedly accused of stabbing, shot and killed by the police on the 15th of August 2019. Shalhoub-Kevorkian said ‘his body had been withheld by the authorities for over two weeks’. In this special issue, her article extends the necropolitical dimensions of Israeli settler-colonialism to examine its new modes of power through ‘necropenology’, where the dead themselves are captive, on trial, colonising not only death itself but the affective and political space of mourning. Todorova’s article, 'Vulnerability as a politics of decolonial solidarity: the case of the Anarchists Against the Wall', examines the Butlerian concept of vulnerability as a decolonising politics through the expression of solidarity.
The Israeli state was carved through the violence of a settler-colonial project; the Indian state has now set the stage for settler-colonialism in Kashmir, transforming the nature of its colonial relationship with Kashmir that has existed since 1947. Ajit Doval, India’s National Security Advisor, and the architect of the transformation of India’s relationship with Kashmir from that of puppet colonial rule to a settler-colonial one, is credited with the policy of an Israeli-style creation of ‘facts on the ground’ when the facts on the ground do not suit the colonial power. The annexation of Kashmir on the 5th of August has also meant the abrogation of Article 35-A, a clause of the now-revoked Jammu and Kashmir constitution which protected Kashmiri ownership of land. Thus, the threadbare vestiges of Kashmiri autonomy that protected indigenous Kashmiris and their land ownership rights from Indian settler ownership has vanished overnight. Kashmir is now saleable by the colonial state ostensibly for developmental purposes though an old Hindutva vision of a demographic change, or ethnic cleansing, from Kashmiri to non-Kashmiri, from Muslim to Hindu.
While the articles in this forthcoming special issue of Identities were written before the 5th of August military siege of Kashmir, they indicate the ways in which Kashmiris have been living under Indian colonial occupation since Jammu and Kashmir’s Maharajah hurriedly acceded to India in 1947, with the proviso that Kashmiris would one day determine their own future. The complex story of the accession may be gleaned from the essays themselves as from recent scholarly sources. Farrukh Faheem speaks of the difficulty of accessing archives in the context of secrecy and state violence, and comments on the nature of what may be constituted as an archive in an occupied zone. In the article, 'Counter-maps of the ordinary: occupation, subjectivity, and walking under curfew in Kashmir', Mohamad Junaid explores through ethnographic work ‘counter-maps of the ordinary’, or the spatial dimensions of walking and stone-throwing as resistant practices, part of Kashmiri aspiration for freedom.
Kashmiri longing for freedom can be witnessed in their historical solidarity with the Palestinian struggle. Ather Zia’s article (forthcoming) traces the resonant and affective solidarity of Kashmiris for Palestine. In the article, 'Kashmir and Palestine: itineraries of (anti) colonial solidarity', Goldie Osuri examines the historical and contemporary routes of anti-colonial solidarity between India and Palestine (state and non-state), arguing for re-routing this anti-colonial solidarity via Kashmir.
As an archive of coloniality and resistance solidarity in Kashmir and Palestine, this special issue of Identities points to another truth that must be acknowledged. The praxis of ‘decolonial solidarity’, as Todorova has described it, is perhaps all that we can hope for in the face of the current maelstrom of the open barbarity of militarised security states, whether in Palestine or Kashmir or elsewhere.
Blog post by Goldie Osuri, University of Warwick, UK, and Ather Zia, University of Northern Colorado, USA
Read the Identities articles from this special issue:
Junaid, Mohamad. Counter-maps of the ordinary: occupation, subjectivity, and walking under curfew in Kashmir. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2019.1633115
Osuri, Goldie. Kashmir and Palestine: itineraries of (anti) colonial solidarity. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2019.1675334
Todorova, Teodora. Vulnerability as a politics of decolonial solidarity: the case of the Anarchists Against the Wall. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2019.1647663
Read related Identities blog articles:
Decolonial solidarity in Palestine-Israel by Teodora Todorova
Everyday dilemmas of walking under curfew in Kashmir by Mohamad Junaid
'They can either free us or finish us, once and for all!' an elderly woman told me in 2015 at a small protest gathering in Srinagar, the capital of Indian-controlled Kashmir. The woman had joined her neighbours at a local district official’s office to demand the removal of a military bunker from their neighbourhood. For the previous twenty-five years, the bunker had been a threatening presence in their neighbourhood. The soldiers stationed inside monitored public movement closely and violently enforced the ever-shifting rules of mobility, especially during curfews, when government arbitrarily closed down entire towns and cities. The soldiers didn’t hesitate to beat up, detain or even shoot at civilians seen out walking on the streets during curfews.
The Kashmiri protestors knew well that the local official they were meeting with their appeal had no power to remove the bunker. But there was nowhere else to protest, for those who possessed real power and made decisions that profoundly affected the lives of ordinary Kashmiris — the higher echelons of the Indian political, bureaucratic and military establishment — were furthest from these everyday sites of anxiety and fear in Kashmir.
Since 1990, when Indian military were given emergency powers in the region to curb the popular pro-independence movement, Kashmir had come to resemble an occupied zone. The woman’s words reflected a deep sense of claustrophobia felt by many Kashmiris, especially the youth, who have seen public spaces in the region being taken over by the Indian forces.
In 2016, after a rebel commander’s killing, Kashmir erupted in widespread protests. Indian authorities governing the region used the protest as an opportunity to intensify its control over public spaces. Curfews became the dominant strategy to do so. Even limited protests, like the one the woman had attended, became impossible and criminalised.
In my Identities article, 'Counter-maps of the ordinary: occupation, subjectivity, and walking under curfew in Kashmir', I draw from my ethnographic fieldwork to trace how the anxieties and fears about ordinary mobility in public spaces are felt and expressed in urban settings in Kashmir, and to show how the state power has taken the form of an arbitrary spatial and temporal control over everyday life in the region.
I also show how in response to this form of control Kashmiris adopt their own spatial practices of resistance to deny Indian state full control over public spaces. These practices range from spontaneous public gatherings to street confrontations as soon as the curfews are lifted, and not only expose Indian state in Kashmir as fundamentally repressive but also keep alive the widespread sentiment for Kashmiri azadi (freedom).
Beyond direct forms of resistance, Kashmiris also use less visible practices, which I call counter-mapping, to create possibilities for safe walking under the highly surveillant occupation. These practices give new meanings to ordinary practices like walking. Walking and gathering in public spaces, as well as commentaries about these practices in the public sphere, become opportunities for reflection as well as a public critique of the nature of the occupation.
On August 5, 2019, as India unilaterally moved to abrogate historical legal provisions (Articles 370 and 35A) that once symbolised Kashmir’s 'autonomous status' and protected rights over land, yet another curfew was imposed, this time to prevent Kashmiris from even uttering dissent. The efficiency with which India, for all practical purposes, imprisoned 8 million Kashmiris under curfew and muted them by blockading all communication (one month of the siege has passed as of this writing), only shows that the occupation — including its infrastructure of control and mechanisms of violence — works primarily by exerting a total power over the space and time of Kashmiri life. However, such totalisation of power over life is neither sustainable nor will, as Kashmir’s history of protest shows, Kashmiri people accept it.
Blog post by Mohamad Junaid, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, USA
Read the full article: Junaid, Mohamad. Counter-maps of the ordinary: occupation, subjectivity, and walking under curfew in Kashmir. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2019.1633115