India’s perception of Kashmir and its citizens is akin to that of a coloniser towards its colony argues Layla Hameedi.
The repetition of history offers us unique insight into behavioural patterns built up over time. It is fascinating that because of some inherent constants of human nature, people and states act upon similar impulses — honour, greed, glory — in similar ways. The dynamic of the oppressor and the oppressed is one such cyclical pattern. As power asymmetries evolve over time, actors in the international system tend to oscillate between these roles. This pattern has been prevalent throughout history; for instance, in the American pursuit of a blatantly imperialistic foreign policy in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War; and in Israel’s illegal occupation of Gaza, the West Bank and the Golan Heights. In both cases, we see a people once subjugated and victimised, taking up the mantle of oppression in the name of power. Today, we see the same unapologetic pursuit for dominance in Narendra Modi’s India, as it imposes a starkly settler colonial framework of subjugation upon the disputed territory of Kashmir.
In the Himalayan territory of Kashmir we see a once-colony, India, on a path of repression precariously similar to that exercised upon the subcontinent by the British for almost two centuries. In 1947, widespread bloodshed, mass suffering and inconceivable sacrifice ultimately resulted in the creation of an Independent Indian State. It was a direct consequence of a passionate struggle against colonial oppression and exploitation. It follows therefore, that India is a state born from an anti-imperial cause, and that this narrative holds an integral place in the make-up of its national identity — or so it should. Today however, more than seven decades since its independence, we see the world’s largest democracy imposing a structure of domination which is for all intents and purposes, colonial. India’s ‘administration’ of Jammu and Kashmir has been characterised by the mass securitisation of the state, enforced disappearances, media and communications blackouts and routine violence for decades. Continue reading