This article analyzes how environmentalism reinscribed violent forms of state sovereignty in the disputed region of Kashmir in the aftermath of a decades-long uprising against Indian rule. After the return of an elected government, six years after its suspension in 1990, environmental restoration legitimized new forms of state and nature making in Kashmir. Nature rather than territory emerged as an arena of citizen activism, which further strengthened the state’s ability to regulate the use and management of Kashmir’s water resources. State and civic bodies deployed discourses of history and restoration to create new and imagined ecologies based on visions of nostalgia, commerce, and esthetics. By undermining place-based understandings of nature and ecology, discourses of environmental stewardship and conservation ended up fostering violent mechanisms of social and political control.

This article is co-authored by Nishita Trisal and CKS’s Mona Bhan. It appears in Critique of Anthropology.