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Kashmir as embodiment of the Muslim question for the Indian State

Authors: Waquar Ahmed*, University of North Texas
Topics: Social Geography, Asia, Third World
Keywords: India, Kashmir, ethno-nationalism, Hindutva, political economy
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

This paper examines the Indian state’s representation of self to its own population and the world, though its relationship with and treatment of its religious minority, the Muslims, and the Muslim majority (former) state of Jammu and Kashmir. At different points of time, and numerous segments and fragments within the Indian state have embodied modern, non-partisan, multi-religious, multi-cultural, inclusive and secular tendencies, just as it has embodied regressive, sectarian, communal, supremacist and ethno nationalist tendencies. A proactively secular state viewed its treatment of Kashmir as symbolic, or representation of its inclusive and accommodative identity – hence efforts were made to be accommodative and sensitive to Kashmiri concerns. This paper, however, focuses on how the Indian state has struggled to define its identity vis-à-vis Muslims, their social, cultural and economic dignity and the idea of secularism during the last decade and how this struggle has manifested in the state’s relationship with Kashmir. The period particularly coincides with two major events pertaining to Kashmir – the state execution of Afzal Guru and the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian constitution that granted certain level of administrative autonomy to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The decade provides the opportunity for examining Muslims and Kashmir and comparing the Congress Party and the BJP at the helm of affairs. The process of othering and persecution of Indian Muslims and Kashmir, I argue, are not discrete processes, but rather dialectically related.

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