Episode 4: Invisible Wars and Vulnerability in Kashmir
This episode examines the nature and sites of warfare and the changing definitions, experiences of war itself. The hosts and the guest also discuss the diverse ways in which the State encourages and benefits from gender minority groups becoming agents of war. The episode also looks at the role of women in peace building movements or as peacemakers. The perceptive Dr. Ather Zia features in this episode.
Ather is a political anthropologist, poet, short fiction writer, and columnist. She is an associate professor in the Department of Anthropology and Gender Studies Program at the University of Northern Colorado, Greeley. She has published a poetry collection, The Frame, and another collection is forthcoming. Ather’s ethnographic poetry on Kashmir has won an award from the Society for Humanistic Anthropology. She is the founder-editor of Kashmir Lit and is the co-founder of Critical Kashmir Studies Collective, an interdisciplinary network of scholars working on the Kashmir region.
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Hello everyone and welcome to our podcast, Uncuff India by One Future Collective. My name is Sanchi and my pronouns are she/her.
My name is Uttanshi and my pronouns are she/her. We are your hosts today and it’s so good to have you all listening in.
In this episode, we will attempt to understand the gendered notions of State sponsored violence in the form of war, particularly through an assessment of the ways in which it affects different genders, particularly gender minorities -as both victims and agents of this violence. We will also discuss the role of gender minorities in peacemaking and in peacekeeping.
Yes, thanks Uttanshi. We know that States and State agencies are ultimately drawn from, and therefore, extensions of existing unequal social systems. In practice, this can look like heightened forms of violence, which stem from the socio-political and cultural sanctioning of the actions of these agencies. In these circumstances, what does it mean for people with multiple vulnerabilities to challenge perpetrating agents? It is these themes that we try to understand today.
To discuss this and to share their insights because of their research and in the context of their own background, we have with us Ather Zia. Ather is the author of Resisting Disappearances, Military Occupation, and Women’s Activism in Kashmir, which won the 2020 Gloria Anzaldua Honorable Mention Award; 2021 Public Anthropologist Award and the Advocate of the Year Award in 2021. She has been featured in the Femi List 2021: a list of 100 women from the Global South working on critical issues. She is the co-editor of Can You Hear Kashmiri Women Speak, Women Unlimited 2020, Resisting Occupation in Kashmir and A Desolation Called Peace. She has published a poetry collection, The Frame, and another collection is forthcoming. Ather’s ethnographic poetry on Kashmir has won an award from the Society for Humanistic Anthropology. She is the founder-editor of Kashmir Lit and is the co-founder of Critical Kashmir Studies Collective, an interdisciplinary network of scholars working on the Kashmir region. Ather, thank you so much for taking the time out to be able to have this extremely important conversation with us. We are very excited to learn from you and to hear from you over the course of this episode. And we really want to welcome you here.
Thank you so much, Uttanshi and Sanchi for inviting me. I am really glad to be in conversation with you and looking forward. Thank you.
Thank you so much, Ather. Thanks a lot for making the time to join us today. We are absolutely delighted to have you for this conversation. And let’s begin right away. To understand the gendering of war, Ather maybe you could first have us look at warfare itself. So, can you tell us a bit about the nature of warfare and shed some light on maybe the sites where this can occur? What is a state of war and how has what we define as war changed over the decades? And can we necessarily see war and peace as strict categories anymore?
That’s a very important question, Sanchi. I think, especially in context of Kashmir, we really need to see where the battlefield begins and where the sort of like, you know, the home and the hearth starts; or are they just meshed into each other. So, if you think about Kashmir from 1947 onwards, I’m going to talk about the case study of Kashmir. If you look at what’s been happening after 1947- when the two countries were created and when Kashmir emerges as a dispute between the two countries, but also through the eyes of its own people who wanted self determination and when this issue goes to the United Nations, what happens after, inside Kashmir, also forces us to think in the larger context of when we think about war and violence and battlefronts. It really forces us to think about what does war look like – especially in the modern, what is known as the “post colonial era”. Is it just soldiers? Is it just, you know, battles between two armies or does it really spill into civilian populations and does it spill into everyday life? And I think that’s what’s happened in Kashmir. You know, a lot of people, when they think about Kashmir or they talk about Kashmir, they’re like everything was good before 1989. And most of the times, you’ll see that a lot of people make 1989 a milestone year for the armed violence (which started in 1989)and then it kind of became, what they say, “violent”, but I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. And that makes us think about the idea of peace as, is peace absence of immediate and direct state and military violence? Is that what we call peace? And also the fact that, you know, what was happening inside Kashmir after 1947 was also the utilisation of or the weaponization of democracy or democratic symbols, especially electoral: the process of elections and all of that. So, I’ll try to talk a little bit about that because that gives us a perspective into how you can have a war happening and this can be so invisible and people are not even going to fathom what exactly is happening to these people who kind of rise into this armed struggle in 1989. And with most of the political analysts, especially in India, saying everything was good before that. So that’s something that we need to understand. So, right after the creation of two countries- In 1947, Kashmir emerges as a dispute between the two, of course, but also through the eyes of Kashmiris, who had seen themselves as part of some sort of a sovereign democracy where they probably had some kind of a deal with the monarch who was ruling them, but they were also a separate nation. So what happens in that moment is very important because we also see right from the get go, the weaponization of democracy that India did and for the next 74 years it was able to tell the rest of the world, and it still is, that we are doing or “we are being very democratic inside Kashmir”. Despite the fact that there is, there are several laws in place that suspend the civilian administration, which for all practical purposes is a client politician administration. So, what happens in 1947? Let’s kind of jump to 1951, when India decides to hold the elections with the help of client politicians. At that moment, the United Nations says that you can’t hold elections in a place that is disputed and that is subjudice, but India goes ahead anyway, says that we’re going to do the plebiscite. Now the people have been forced into partaking in the elections and the client politicians are the nominees. They are the ones who are going to be the politicians of the future, but all of this is done in the name of governance: that these disputed territories, both of them, need elections and they need to be governed and that’s when the actual violence starts happening. No one really talks about elections as violence, but I think when you think about Kashmir, the very weaponization of democracy and symbols of democracy, they become very violent. When you ask people who, for all practical purposes, are living in disputed territory, to partake in elections and telling them that this is going to be for governance – your politics of self-determination still stays, but the moment those elections happen, the moment “the government is elected”, something else starts happening, which is coups and, you know, rigging starts happening. The people who took part in elections, the client politicians, are thrown into jails. So, that is Kashmiri destiny with India from 1947 – through the 50s and 60s and early 70s and you see this politics of coercion happening. And you see on the other side, the civil administration also utilizing symbols of not just democracy, but also feminism as state feminism. And then bringing that all together and telling the rest of the world that we are actually conducting and we are executing democracy inside Kashmir because we are holding elections; and not making it seem like the battlefront it is because now they’re playing with the hearts and the minds. They are trying to win people onto their sides and that’s kind of the battle that India was fighting, but it also had military inside Kashmir, which was already doing the direct military aggression. It was already occupying lands. In fact, from 1947 onwards, till this present moment, the amount of land that is occupied by the Indian military, it’s the size of Dallas and the entire Kashmir is the state of Utah, slightly smaller and maybe, you know, as big as Britain. So you can kind of guess how much land is occupied by the army and that’s something that we really need to consider like- how does a battle look like inside a situation like this. And I think the bigger question there also is what does post-colonialism look like for places like Kashmir? I think that’s the bigger question. Does it even hold? Is it even a valid school of thought for places like Kashmir? Because when we talk about post-colonialism, I think one of the most violences that has occurred to people like Kashmiris is that post-colonialism hasn’t even talked about them. So, it’s completely quiet about such situations. So, should we say before 1989 that there was peace? What kind of peace was it? If you are doing this with the people, you’re steadily criminalising the movement for plebiscite or self determination. At the same time, you are engineering consent and you’re putting laws into place that is going to be, right from 1949 itself, even 1947 itself, put them behind bars for even asking the questions about plebiscite or self determination, but you’re not actively seemingly battling them because they haven’t taken up arms. So, in 1989, when Kashmiris actually take up arms also because of a lot of geopolitics that’s happening and they also took up arms in the 60s, but that movement was kind of suppressed within a decade. Are we saying that the armed violence is now erupting and Kashmiris are violent? Or are we saying if we look at it through the lens of what was happening from 1947 onwards, is this something that they have been pushed into a corner? And now they are taking up arms? So, I think when we look at war and battle and violence through such a lens where a democracy, “India”, is trying to coral these people into consenting for integration: how do we see pre 1989 and how do we see from 1989 till this point in time? I think there’s a lot of questions that arise as to what violence is, and how violence can look like. Sometimes the absence of direct violence might be construed as peace and quiet and calm and normalcy, but it is not because you’re doing violence by other means, while having a direct military aggressor in the region as well. I know that’s a long answer, but nothing is short about Kashmir. When we talk about Kashmir, you really have to talk about a lot.
Thank you so much for that, Ather. And just while you were speaking, I’m really interested to hear more about how the definition itself has changed over the years and how, you know, and I’m just thinking as someone who’s done law as well, is just how this also becomes a way for us to move away from the protections available under, which can be available under, a “wartime situation”. When the meaning of war itself changes, and when what war itself looks like changes, these protections also become very difficult to be able to grasp and to imply and to ask for as a matter of right, which then also makes me think, you know, war is generally seen as a larger universal phenomenon. Do you think that these situations also affect people of different gender identities differently? Women, queer folks – do you think that there is a difference in how we perceive it and how it impacts us? And is there a difference in the public sphere? Is there a difference in the private sphere of how different genders experience and deal with the impact of war?
I think the impact of war on genders, definitely, all genders experience it in a different manner. Because of the political, social, intellectual, economic status that the genders inhabit, they are different. Mostly women are the most vulnerable, old people are very vulnerable, children are very vulnerable in a war. So, I can again, you know looking from the lens of Kashmir, I do want to just flag this answer that I’m about to give, by saying that the Eurocentric academia or the Eurocentric school of thought often pushes us to think about gendered ways or gendered impacts of war as if the genders are, you know, inhabiting different spaces. Even though they are at different social, political hierarchies, but at the same time our societies, you know, I’d like to see our societies as South Asian societies. I think even if we are different countries, we are different peoples and cultures, there is a rubric that we share. The close knit communities, where men and women – they exist and coexist in different ways. Of course, there’s a patriarchal structure where the men, hierarchically, are stronger and they have a lot of power over women, they have a lot of power over old people and children and that is true for all our societies. So in that sense, yes, the impact of war and the way war is felt and experienced is different, but we also have to understand – when war comes to a certain community, like it did in Kashmir: the first victim and the first discrimination that it did bodily was against men. I’ll give you the example of the disappeared, the forcibly disappeared in Kashmir, we have more than 10,000 disappearances currently and these are mostly men, majority of them Muslim men, who were bearded from 8 to 35 to 40. So, what you see there happening is that these men left early in the morning. Some of them were commutants, most of them were non commutants. They left in the morning, never returned, maybe detained, jailed, killed, imprisoned. We don’t know. So, I get asked this question a lot. There’s this movement called Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons, which was founded by a mother and a human rights lawyer. The mother whose son Parveena Ahanger, whose son was disappeared by the Indian Army and it’s been a strong movement for the last 33 years and the question that gets asked about is the gendered resistance and the gendered impact of violence. Women suffer a double bind, you know? They have to fight the occupation, they have to fight the patriarchal military industrial complex, which is disappearing them in; and then they also have to fight the society because they have to push through certain societal norms to really become active and become these activists, which they have in the last 30 years. But at the same time, I always remind people, and my students, and whoever I’m talking to, that we have to understand that societies in South Asia, we experience war as communities – which is also true for other places. It’s the men who disappeared and women who were pushed into public. So, the first and foremost impact is kind of like the men were taken away. So, a lot of people are like, “so this is not a feminist movement, APDP, because these are women, they’re looking for their old patriarchal structures to be back, like their husband to be back, their father to be back”. So is that what it is? It’s not a feminist movement? And that kind of pushes us to think further. Like, what does feminism mean for our societies? Because I think for a long time, and not for the lack of decolonial literature that has been making rounds in the last 10-15 years, where we are thinking through our own cultures as to what feminism means for our culture, as what decolonization means for our culture. I think if you look through those lenses, there is a lot more generative debate that can occur and also we can kind of think through our own cultural problems because war also is a cultural problem. You might use the same technology that the Israeli settler state uses in Palestine as India does in Kashmir. You might use the same war technologies that, you know, American imperialism uses in the rest of the world: more than a 100 conflicts and violences and wars that it’s been part of. But at the same time, war is very cultural. How do people experience war? War also becomes culture. It’s like in Kashmir – war has become an invisible war. It has different names. People call it an unconventional war. They call it a low protracted conflict. They call it conflict, they call it dispute. But I really like to see it as a war that’s happening. It’s an everyday war. It’s not very new, but a very cultural notion of war, where people prepare for the war every day. They go out of their homes, they know they are facing a certain situation, they know they can’t move freely, they have bunkers, they have checkpoints. So it’s a very sensorial way of understanding war, in which women do suffer differently, men suffer differently, and other genders also suffer differently – not talked about – and in the end they all suffer together. So, I think because these are South Asian cultures, no doubt, you know, different cultures, different religions, different ethics and people. But at the same time the way war comes to Kashmir, the way people are experiencing war – that’s really nuanced, that’s really cultural, that’s also in ways fought back through religion as well. Like people are very religious, how prayerful they are. I’m not talking about the other aspects, but people have a different way, like women have a different way of fighting this war. And in my case study, which was the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons, I really saw the different hierarchies that women inhabit. How they become active against the occupation; how they even implement the politics that they have garnered and gleaned in the last 30 – 33 years, which is based around mourning. So, it’s basically the politics of mourning. How they utilise the social norms and kind of like make them into activist norms; how their feminine consciousness becomes feminist consciousness; and also how their feminine consciousness is a feminist consciousness in the first place. So, I think while we need to pay attention to the gendered impacts and gendered experiences, I feel like our South Asian contexts would also be benefited if we did not pit men against the women, even inside the situation of war. If we really took them as part of the same fabric and how the dynamics they share and kind of began from there, which is not to say that we have to negate women’s very special double buy-in situations, but these have to be parallel processes.
Thank you so much for bringing out all those brilliant points, Ather. I think I have learned so much from the last 10 minutes that you have spoken to us. I think the perspective that you offered is so nuanced and it makes me think of so many things that, like you said, does a postcolonial theory even apply to a context like Kashmir for us? How in different contexts, for example, if we talk about the global north, then the gendering that might happen in wars there is so different from our South Asian societies and we indeed face wars as communities and other communities also might face this. But your whole contextualization of how a South Asian society faces war, it’s been so insightful to listen to. Something that you said really stood out for me, which was, yes, genders suffered differently in a warlike situation and, especially, when you talked about Kashmir – but they ultimately suffered together. And I was just wondering if you would like to talk to us about how then does the state encourage and benefit from different genders and how do different gender minority groups, but also like you said, men, become agents of war and how does the state actually benefit from it?
I think that gendering really, really benefits the State, especially if the state is also portraying a sort of a feminist consciousness, if it can be called consciousness. I remember there was this one incident in around 2007 – 2008. I think the listeners are going to benefit more from concrete examples than theory. Sonia Gandhi came to Kashmir. And she actually addressed women separately, and she talked to them as Kashmiri sisters who had withstood the violence of the Kashmiri armed violence, which we call armed struggle- it has a definite colloquial name for it, which is tehreek, meaning revolution. But the Indian states portray it as terrorism to the rest of the world. And then Sonia Gandhi had this very specific speech that she talks to – I forget, I’m just summarising – but she was addressing Kashmiri women. She was telling them that you have suffered for the last so many years through this armed violence and she wasn’t talking about military violence. She wasn’t talking about the Indian states’ violence. She was talking specifically about how women in Kashmir have suffered their own men. So it was 2007 I think, and that made me think about brown imperial feminism. And brown imperial feminism is essentially-I know that you inhabit Indian identities, and I have complete respect for that as people belonging to a certain nationality. Of course, you should be proud. You should be who you are. But of course, we also have to be humanists more than we have to be patriots in that sense. So that made me start thinking about brown imperial feminism that a lot of Indian feminists were bringing into Kashmir. That also made me think about state feminism, the history of state feminism in Kashmir. So, when I have been part of a lot of feminist collectives, especially those that emerge from India. And when I was younger, I used to be part of these conversations where we thought that, you know, as feminists, as women, we have some solutions. We’re going to think about this and then I had some senior activists who would say that this is to no avail, what you’re doing with these Indian feminists. But I had to have my own experiences, right? So, what they meant was that there’s going to be solidarity, but the solidarity is going to be very selective. It will not go beyond a certain point, but I was young and I thought maybe, you know, we can make a difference. These are different feminists. These are not feminists from the older generations, but a decade later I realised that Indian feminists did really have a very selective solidarity with Kashmiri feminists – and that was that until the point you called the Kashmiri problem and the Kashmiri issue as a human rights issue, it was all good. And the human rights violations don’t occur in a vacuum, they’re symbolic of the political dispute because Kashmiris are demanding certain things. That’s why they’re being abused. So the moment you talked about political dispute, your paths would become different because they did not want to talk against their own state.
So, that became very palpable early on and that’s where you can kind of see where the State kind of makes inroads. And I’ll give you this very important example and I think that might tie this answer together. And that is when the Indian State de-operationalized and militarily took away Kashmir’s autonomy, one of the reasons that they told the rest of the world is that the special status of Kashmir has discriminated against women. It was actually able to get away with it and it told the rest of the world that Kashmir has become this virulent autonomous patriarchy, which is cracking down on its women and it told brazen lies to the rest of the world because one of the things that was happening inside Kashmir for a long time was this debate-what if Kashmiri women married non Kashmiris? What happens to their residency? Because you know Kashmiris had a permanent residency under the autonomy. They were citizens of Kashmir, then they also had a citizenry with India – they had sort of a dual citizenship. So, from the 60s onwards, what was happening was that women had to produce an unmarried certificate if they had to get a job or something, to prove that they were not married to a non Kashmiri. So what happened in case they married a non Kashmiri? So, a lot of people were under the impression that if they married a non-Kashmiri, they lost their dominion, they lost their domicile status, but that was not the case. They still retain the right to property, they still retain their right to franchise. And in 2002 there was a case, and the judgement said very categorically and clearly that women do not lose any domicile status. They still retain their permanent residency and of course the husband also becomes party to the permanent residency, but the only thing that was unresolved, which was done case by case basis with property rights. Like who gets that woman’s property? that couple’s property? It also depends on where children are. There was a committee that was educating this problem on a case by case basis and because of red tape there was no law coming through fast enough and I don’t know if that was even by design. So then the Indian government uses this very thing and dismantles the entire state and says, “there is discrimination against women”, and it’s on record.
There is a public repartee happening between Indian Prime Minister Modi and the ex-chief Minister of Kashmir, Umar Abdullah, where Umar Abdullah’s sister has actually married an Indian, a non Kashmiri. And Modi tells the Chief minister of Kashmir that “your sister has gotten married, we will take away Article 370 and she can have her rights”. And the ex-chief minister, he talks back, publicly of course, through the media and he says “no, no, no such thing has happened. She hasn’t lost her status”. So, you can actually see the fudging that is happening between these two very prominent politicians and the Indian media is actually running with Modi’s version. I am, by no means, in sympathy with a current politician from Kashmir, but I’m just kind of like using this as an example. So, the “gender discrimination” was actually used as a straw man argument and this entire state was dismantled with the help of Indian feminists, who did not raise any question. And I’m using Indian feminist, the phrase very loosely. I don’t mean a particular group. There have been sympathetic feminists who have looked at Kashmir through a lens of political dispute and not just as a human right dispute. Of course, that goes without saying. But the majority of people, of which you women are also a party, and different genders are also a party: they saw this as gender discrimination. So that has been used. State feminism has been used. A lot of times you see historically people are like, “but women, they have like 42% – 50% literacy rate in Kashmir, so how is it even possible? Which means that everything good has happened from 1947 onwards; women are now in the mainstream and all of that. State feminism was deployed by client politicians in their manifesto. They were actually creating a constituency through women for the Indian government and for integration. So while women were pushed towards literacy, it was like – they could be doctors, they could be teachers, but they were not encouraged to think for themselves. Like if someone would think for themselves, if someone would question the Indian government, that was pure becoming a dissident, and they were thrown in jail. There was a solid, concerted criminalization. That’s not feminism! That’s not feminist practice! So we see state feminism in effect from 1947 onwards, which kind of helps them strengthen the idea of democracy. Which actually is not democracy but weaponization of democratic elements like elections. And then in 2019, we see this brazen use of gender discrimination. And now we see pink washing happening inside Kashmir, as if, you know, the rest of India or other parts of the world are better off than Kashmir and Kashmir is the only virulent patriarchy. And what’s also worsens Kashmir’s argument is the fact that it’s portrayed as – for lack of a better term – Islamic terrorism, which is such a misnomer: that it’s Muslim men who have gotten together, created a patriarchy and they’re cracking down on their women. And it becomes very easy in an anti-Islam, in an Islamophobic world, for the rest of the world to buy it. So I think that’s something that we need to consider about how state feminism, how feminism and how gender discrimination has really been utilised by the Indian state as weapons against Kashmiris.
Thank you for that, Ather. And I think that just brings me to my last question for you, which is what do you see the role of women, particularly as in the peace building movement, as peacemakers in such situations as well? What do you think is that role? How has that been shaped? How has that influenced situations of violence in the past but also now?
I think after 2019, so women as peacemakers and peace builders again, I think it really takes a society a long time to realise that, especially in Kashmir- I call Kashmir a working class patriarchy, and I think most of South Asia is a working class patriarchy, where women actually are working alongside men, you know, they’re selling fish, they are baking, they are street food vendors. So it’s not as if our women, you know, that’s where I kind of push people and push myself to think with less eurocentrism, because our societies have never been different in that sense, where they have kept women from the public life, women have been part of the economic strata all along. It’s just that socially they have inhabited a place where they were always secondary, always a lower rung, which is also true for the West. But going back to your question – how do we see women as peacemakers in a situation like Kashmir? I would say-I really don’t have a clear cut answer for that because I feel like women have been trying inside Kashmir for the last 74 years be side by side with men and have an equal say. Even if not an equal contribution and an equal share at the table where the negotiations happen, but they have been trying to be in a supplementary role, in a complimentary role, in the role of even playing chaperons to men because, you know, men disappear or are killed immediately. And the women in Kashmir, for the last 33-34 years have been chaperons of their men: if a man goes out, a mother or a sister will go along so that he’s not immediately killed. If they’re walking in the streets, they’re seen as a family, which also is not a guarantee of safety. You know, women are raped, women are killed. So, they have other issues that occurred to them. So, women’s movement or activism or role in peacemaking, I don’t really see it separately, but I do see women getting together and forming a movement, of which the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons is a great example, but again we can’t really look at it only from the lens of being a woman’s movement because these are mothers and these are wives who are called the half widows, for lack of a better term because they didn’t know whether their husbands are dead or alive, whether they’re going to turn up or what. So they’re called half widows. This movement has become formidable, even if after 2019 they’re not able to protest much because protesting has been criminalised inside Kashmir. We see a lot of support that men gave them so that they could form this movement. The co-founder of the movement is a pro bono human rights lawyer. The men from these families help women with paperwork. They help women with learning the legal ways and courts and police and whatever the processes were. It was just that they could not come to the forefront and protest like the women were, because the women were initially allowed to protest because they were just seen as women. You know, they also do not, they don’t inhabit an equal hierarchy with the occupation forces – because they see them as just women so they can gather together and do a sit-in and do a small protest because they’re just seen as mothers. They’re just seen as wives. What are they going to do? But the moment it’s a group of men who are protesting, they’re seen as a threat. So there have been several massacres where men came out in protest. Gaukada massacre from 1991, which was actually done to protest sexual molestation and rape. And so, you kind of see them being directly, becoming a massacre – they were directly shot at and the soldiers surrounded them and killed them, killed a lot of men in that protest, but with women it usually became this kind of a thing where they would get together and they would protest and then they would raise a little hue and cry. Do politics of mourning, basically mourning and crying and utilising the symbols of their social mores that were already present, which was mourning and kind of fashioning their protests like that.
So in that again what we see is that women are protesting, they are being activists, they are trying to push the social envelope as well as deal with the politics of occupation. But at the same time, I would remind the listeners and I would also try to just stand in the fact that we are close knit societies. We can’t really have our movements separately. And I think that’s what I think of, when I think of peacemaking in Kashmir. And again, what does the word peacemaking do in Kashmir? There can be no peacemaking unless the political dispute is gone. A lot of people say, “Oh it’s a post-conflict society” – No! It’s not just conflict, because conflict is ambiguity between 2-3 people; no, this is a dispute – a territory, where people have their own demands, and you have to listen to them. It’s not just something that’s happening between two countries. So how do we think about peacemaking when we think about Kashmir without thinking that the political dispute has to be solved? And if we do not have 100% genuineness in solving the political dispute, we are paying merely lip service to settling women’s issues and to settling men’s issues, and to settling the issues of other genders on the gender spectrum. So that’s something that I would really foreground.
Thank you so much, Ather. I think it’s been incredible listening to you talk about all things from weaponization of democracy, about situating war and peace, and community in our South Asian societies. And also assessing the situation of Kashmir over the past decades. I think we are all taking a lot, and I think I’ll speak for our listeners as well, that it’s been a truly insightful experience to listen to you today. Thank you so much for that. And before we close, I would like to ask you if you have any closing thoughts on the conversation that you’d like to share with us.
Yeah, I don’t know what I have to flag, but I do want us to kind of take this moment, this conversation when we’re thinking about Kashmir, per se. I also want to draw the listeners’ attention to the fact that from 1947 onwards, most of us have been quarrelled into following a pattern of living, whether that be political, cultural, or economic. This was left to us by the fleeing colonial powers and I do want us to think through the lens of neocolonialism. When I think about India, I don’t really think through the lens of post colonialism. I think it’s a neocolonial power and not just think, I know it behaves and it has the heart of a neocolonial power. It’s an imperial power that was left in place and not just as countries as, “democracies” that have been imported to our places. These are settler democracies because if we think about, let’s say, the United States – it’s a democracy to whom? It’s not democracy to indigenous people, whose genocide is still so unknown to people in our part of the world – that we still come to America thinking this is the bastion of democracy, but this is a democracy for a group of people, for the white settlers who came here. This is their democracy, but not the indigenous peoples’. And this is the democracy that is imported to the rest of the world, which is why you see so much dispossession happening in India currently: of the indigenous people, of Dalits, of the marginalised, of, “minorities” who are not minorities – Muslims are not minorities- 200 million people, how do you, of course like relatively, but you don’t call them minorities and push them into ghettos and say that that’s where you stay.
So I think when we are thinking about Kashmir, I would urge your generation, I would urge the generation that’s listening to podcasts and the generation that is coming, I would really urge us to look at not through post colonialism but through the lens of neocolonialism and neoliberalism. And then think about issues like Kashmir and see how simple they are. They’re not intractable problems. They’re really solvable problems. If you get out of the mindset, like, what if Kashmir is granted independence? What happens after that? I mean, nothing is going to happen. And then start thinking about extractionism and thinking about neoliberalism, which really wants Kashmir for all the resources – the water and all kinds of minerals and now you also have lithium mines. And what is what has been happening after 2019 is really, really an extractionist economy that is cracking down on Kashmir. It has less to do with nations and nationalism, it’s more to do with neoliberal, extractionist policies, which is creating ecocide. So, I think that’s something that I would ask us to keep in mind. To broaden our horizons and not just look through issues of prestige and Kashmir being the crown of India and all of that, but really look at it through the eyes of the future rather than the past.
Thank you so much Ather for taking the time out to have this conversation with us. I definitely feel like you’ve given us a lot to think about, a lot of thoughts to go back and to be discussing in our micro communities with each other. So from my end just a very big thank you for taking the time out to do this.
Thank you for tuning in today. Please leave us any questions you may have as voice notes on Anchor or in our DMs. We would love to hear from you. This podcast is brought to you by One Future Collective.
Yes, thank you so much. And don’t forget to follow us on Instagram and Facebook at onefuturecollective and at Onefuture_India on Twitter. And keep an eye out for future episodes out every second and fourth Thursday of the month. Until next time!
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