'Kashmir is a Palestine no one talks about'.
I recorded this remark by a friend sympathetic to both struggles almost a decade ago. She knew enough to realise early on as to what was prevalent and what would be unfolding for the Indian occupied Kashmir in the future. As I discuss in my Identities article, ‘"Their wounds are our wounds": a case for affective solidarity between Palestine and Kashmir’, while the political histories of both regions are different, broadly speaking, they ‘seem’ very similar and separated only by continents. Strong overlaps exist in having been midwifed by the waning British Empire in 1947, UN intervention and internationalisation, and in their resistance movements, that are undermined by what the current global politics lumps erroneously as 'Islamic terrorism'. The 'suffering' of people due to the heavy military presence is one of the most visually gripping hallmarks of both struggles. While these overlaps exist, settler colonialism as a fatal project of the Indian occupation of Kashmir has not been very easy to picture, especially for the international community.
It has taken scholars of Critical Kashmir Studies, an emerging subdiscipline in South Asian Studies, several decades of scholarship to manifest how India, first and foremost, is an occupying power in Jammu and Kashmir, and how since 1947 it enforced policies that eroded the region’s territorial autonomy and in time paved the way for settler colonialism. The policies put into place by India, which the UN admonished in the early 1950s, have enabled all the subsequent Indian governments to curb Kashmiri dissent and create a scaffolding for 'electoral politics'. Thus, India got away with playing the politics of democracy (Zia 2019) in a region that is both an internationally recognised dispute and an occupation. Subsequently, a stream of client governments and rigged elections paved the way for legal rulings directly handed down by India, which pared down Kashmir’s autonomy. This process of legal incorporation of Kashmir that was made operational through courts constitutes what Duschinski and Ghosh (2017: 34) call occupational constitutionalism.
On 5 August 2019, the entire world witnessed the culmination of this process by the current Indian government, run by the right-wing Hindu nationalist outfit the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). In a broader neocolonial context, the erasure of Kashmir’s autonomy is also the fruition of the Hindu indigeneity ideology based on which Muslims in the Indian subcontinent are cast as invaders and foreigners, and Kashmiri Muslims are doubly marked as the Other: first as Muslims and second, as Kashmiris who are committed to an irrepressible struggle for a UN-mandated plebiscite and democratic sovereignty. The BJP unilaterally and militarily de-operationalised Kashmir’s autonomous status and territorial sovereignty. For the people in Kashmir, a Muslim majority state, their longstanding fear of settler colonialism and its attendant evils of dispossession and cultural imperialism were openly put into motion. Nearly all the 8 million Kashmiris were imprisoned in their homes under a curfew and communication lockdown. There was complete communication blackout, which meant no phones, no Internet and not even basic cable TV. While curfews, communication bans and lockdowns are not new to Kashmiris, the intensity and the duration of the siege became a shock. India broke its own record in the longest internet shutdown – over 8 months. Even today as the world faces a pandemic, Kashmiris only have partial access to mobile phones and the internet, which is slow and text based.
On top of the COVID-19 quarantine, relentless war, counterinsurgency tactics, and facing the dearth of healthcare and information, Kashmiris had to face yet another assault from the Indian rule through the unilateral amendment to the domicile act. After the forceful abolition of Kashmir’s territorial sovereignty, the amendment in the domicile act manifests the active beginning of Indian settler colonialism, which according to some Kashmiri scholars, constitutes a form of demographic terrorism. Furthermore, Indian authorities have designated categories of people from India who can claim domicile in Kashmir and acquire the right to franchise, property and employment. If the issuing authority does not issue the domicile paperwork within 15 days, they would be fined to the tune of 50,000 India Rupees. This is the first time that a bureaucrat will be individually penalised for not providing paperwork within a time stipulated by the government, which is relatively fast. If anything, it shows the urgency which the government of India is imposing to ensure faster processing of settlers. This is a settler colonial plan on steroids being imposed when Kashmiris are doubly quarantined and unable to lodge protest of any kind. These policies only underline the sheer intensity with which the policy of settler colonialism, dispossession of indigenous people and rampant exploitation of resources that India is putting in place in Kashmir. The echo of 'going the Palestine way' is no more a fear but a fearful reality.
Duschinski, H. & Ghosh, S. 2017. Constituting the occupation: preventive detention and permanent emergency in Kashmir. Journal of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law 49 (3): 314–337.
Zia, A. 2019. Resisting disappearance: women’s activism and military occupation in Kashmir. Seattle. Washington University Press.
Blog post by Ather Zia, University of Northern Colorado, USA
Read the full article: Zia, Ather. “Their wounds are our wounds”: a case for affective solidarity between Palestine and Kashmir. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2020.1750199
‘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