Issue 36: KASHMIR (8/30/2011)

This might be the year insurrection came back in fashion.  Protests are again sexy, thanks in small part at least to the swag of social media (and, in large part to a quintessential desire to topple goliaths all over the world).  We’ve witnessed people everywhere demonstrating against the oppressive conditions that structure their lives.  Prisoners went on hunger strikes.  Some people threw bottles at police while others took over buildings and city centers.  And importantly, there were concrete wins.  Even if we may not agree with every tactic or every aim, the energy is intoxicating and contagious.  Yet, in of corners of the world not trending on Twitter, struggles without apparent end continue.  For our special issue of Samar Magazine, we turn to the twenty year military occupation of Kashmir with a keen eye towards the future of militarization and social movements in South Asia.   

The motivation around this special online edition of Samar is to address the various issues that arise from Kashmir's privileged location in Indian and Pakistani nationalisms: militarism, occupation, and disappearance.  India's demands to be seen as a global superpower and victim of 'terrorism' only cohere against the backdrop of decades of Kashmiri insurgency.  Similarly, Pakistan's allied status in the US-led global war on terror is continually read in relation to its logistic support of anti-state violence in Kashmir - at moments in history helping Kashmiri autonomy and in others supporting only those fighting to make Kashmir part of Pakistan. As Kashmir is perhaps the lynchpin in unraveling the convoluted landscape of South Asian geopolitics, the articles in this issue address how varying levels of violence manifest on Kashmiri bodies.  The authors - all Kashmiri diasporic writers - draw on recent research and work experiences in Srinagar, looking at how Indian occupation shapes everyday life.

The Kashmir we come upon in these essays is suspended mid-air like a pebble cast from stone-pelting crowd and towards an encroaching military party.  A pitchers arm and the weight of gravity together shape Kashmir's trajectory, struggling to stay high enough to survive the encounter.  Since 2008, renewed calls for independence have heated Kashmir's usually cool summers.  The word Azadi peppers these protests and the politics of resistance in Kashmir.  It means freedom in Hindi and Urdu, though Farsi in origin.  The word is hardly new to South Asian radical politics; Indian anti-imperialist revolutionary Chandrashekar Tiwari became known in the 1920s as Chandrashekar Azad in his struggles against the British.  In Kashmir, chants for Azadi assail Indian state excesses during protests, but a sensibility of Azadi is a part of survival in the everyday. 

Ather Zia documents how women who live with shadows of disappeared loved ones organize around human rights.  Her work chronicles the Kashmir conflict’s gendered violences that shape how these women continue to resist Indian militarism.  But, what does occupation feel like?  What happens to artistic expression and the arts?  Mohsin Mohi-Ud Din gives us vignettes of his cultural work in Kashmir against the brutal terrain of violent conflict that are simultaneously hopeful and melancholic.  He points to promulgation of the word “normalcy” as a way to deny the distinct and jarring contrasts in Kashmiri life.  In his personal essay reflecting on his return to Kashmir as a journalist, Talal Ansari further animates some of the more recent returns to calls for independence.  He guides us from the early years of the conflict through the contemporary and renewed protest against state violence, asking rhetorically what it means  to value and support certain social movements over others after the Arab Spring.

And that’s just it.  If social movements are back in vogue this Samar issue puts Kashmir at the front of the store with other soft woolens and a stack of keffiyehs.  Enjoy the read.

 

Kashmir, Issue 36, was guest edited by Anjali Nath. Anjali is a PhD Candidate in American Studies & Ethnicity at USC.  She is also on the Board of Community Services Unlimited (www.csuinc.org) working on issues of food justice in South Los Angeles.  You can follow her on Twitter: @anjulikha 

 

Articles in this Issue

Ather Zia documents how women who live with shadows of disappeared loved ones organize around human rights.  Her work chronicles the Kashmir conflict’s gendered violences that shape how these women continue to resist Indian militarism. 

Ather Zia

Mohsin Mohi-Ud Din gives us vignettes of his cultural work in Kashmir against the brutal terrain of violent conflict that are simultaneously hopeful and melancholic.  He points to promulgation of the word “normalcy” as a way to deny the distinct and jarring contrasts in Kashmiri life. 

 

Mohsin Mohi-Ud Din

In this photo essay reflecting on his return to Kashmir as a journalist, Talal Ansari animates some of the more recent returns to calls for independence.  He guides us from the early years of the conflict through the contemporary and renewed protest against state violence, asking rhetorically what it means  to value and support certain social movements over others after the Arab Spring.

Talal Ansari