By Mona Bhan (Originally posted on Kindle Magazine)

What are the stakes for Kashmir’s border communities in the ongoing struggle for azadi from India? Those who question Kashmir’s right to self-determination invariably fall back on its diverse ethnic and religious minorities to reject Kashmiri aspirations for azadi. The standard iteration of this narrative is that Kashmir cannot be reduced to the Valley, nor can its diverse populations, which include Dards, Purigs, Baltis, Botos, and Brogpas among others, be expected to conform to the Kashmiri Muslim desire for freedom from Indian rule.

A slightly different version of the same narrative hones in on the “self” in self-determination, stressing the self as fragmented and heterogeneous, and therefore also politically divided. Such dominant narratives, however, almost never represent border communities as political subjects in their own right. Instead, their “difference” from Kashmiris, particularly from Kashmiri Muslims, is used to frame the Kashmiri struggle for self-determination as parochial and territorially limited in order to render it morally and politically illegitimate.

We can ask whether this standard narrative is truly invested in acknowledging the everyday struggles of border communities, whose lives have become deeply entwined with the logic and operations of a military state. To what extent is this narrative meant to detract from the foundational question of Kashmir’s disputed political status in order to reinforce the justness and legitimacy of India’s rule over Kashmir? Why is it that instead of genuinely engaging with the political aspirations and differences of border communities, their “otherness” is repeatedly used to shore up public apathy against Kashmir’s right to self-determination? And, when and how did plurality in Kashmir become a justification for India’s continued hold over an occupied territory? …

Read more here.

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