Imagining Kashmir: Emplotment and Colonialism

By Patrick Colm Hogan | Go to book overview

Introduction
Kashmir, Narrative, and the Complexity of Colonialism

Why Kashmir?

Kashmir is an important topic today primarily because of the great human tragedy that has been unfolding there—intensively over the past twenty-five years and, in a more attenuated form, for decades before that. Seema Kazi reports that at the time she was writing (in 2008), the death toll was estimated at 80,000–100,000 (xi; the numbers vary, as shown by the estimate of 70,000 cited by Waheed [305] in 2011). Kashmir had become “the most heavily militarised region in the world” (Kazi 85); in 2004, there was “one soldier for every ten civilians” (Kazi 97). The suffering of the people is only partially revealed by the death tolls. The conditions of life itself have been suffocating. Consider, for example, “The imposition of indefinite twenty-four hour curfews in Srinagar during the early 1990s, for months on end,” which made it “impossible for ordinary citizens to buy daily supplies, [and] prevented those needing medical attention from reaching a hospital,” among other debilitating consequences (Kazi 100). The populace has been terrorized by both the military (who are largely immune from prosecution [see Kazi 98 and 105] and therefore have little reason not to act cruelly on the basis of anger or fear) and the militants, who are of course not subject to ordinary laws. Moreover, the vast majority of the Indian military and a large percentage of the militants (Swami estimates “over a third” [194]) are not Kashmiri. In consequence, they often treat Kashmiri people as enemies, though both the soldiers and the militants are putatively fighting on behalf of the Kashmiri people.

The ethnic and linguistic difference just mentioned is related to the nature of the conflict. As Kazi explains, “According to an in dependent poll conducted in the Kashmir Valley in 1995, 72 per cent of respondents

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