India’s endgame in Kashmir is the consummation of settler-colonial occupation; Kashmiris’ goal is to uproot it (II)


Tariq Ahmed

Thus, Kashmir became a theater of settler-colonial tyranny as well as a case study in ‘developmentalism’ (the cynical ‘politics of life’) that sought to distract the restive population from its political aspiration and focus more on their daily grind of life and living. The refrain was, as is the case in all colonial occupations, “we must develop them, with or without their consent’; a civilizing and redeeming intervention by the ‘well-meaning, cultured and progressive’ Indian for the good of a ‘gullible, primitive and timid’ Kashmiri.
To entrench its stranglehold, India– through devious economic strategies, sinister educational and cultural policies, cunning deployment of cinematic soft power, and brutal silencing of dissent through both hard and ‘soft’ repression — attempted to articulate subjectivities and configure and re-configure political proclivities and aspirations in Kashmir. The sole aim was to legitimize and sustain Kashmir’s continued colonial occupation as a necessity that Kashmiris could not survive without.
When the ‘development and progress’ mantra lost its traction, they enhanced militarized silencing of the dissent. This tyrannical subjugation presented Kashmiris the binary of complete submission or the inglorious life of the ‘living dead.’ In this survival struggle, Kashmiris made a rational choice in choosing to live. This inevitably led to the uneasy co-existence of the tyranny of breathing under a repressive and manipulative regime and the realities of daily living.
Kanjawal notes, “Strategies such as the politics of life build, maintain and sustain colonial occupations. They enable political subjectivities that are paradoxical in their demands and aspirations, forcing individuals to reconcile their desire for political freedom with their desire to lead ‘normal’ economically stable lives.”
The Indian governments of the past and present have succeeded in manipulating and suppressing dissent and immobilizing the street protests. The nationalists have misinterpreted and conflated this as consent to its rule. The inconvenient truth is that instead of following an inverted U-trajectory — a one-off volcanic eruption, the resistance struggle has followed a W-trajectory, going up and down and up again.
India will soon discover that the political resistance against settler-colonial occupation cannot be effectively eliminated by demobilizing street protests. As has been the case in other settler-colonial occupations, India has provided no breathing space for the expression of political dissent to render violent resistance superfluous, and in doing so, created the seeds of a future confrontation.
The book’s premise applies to current and future times as much as it lays bare the past.

Tariq Ahmed is a freelance writer.