UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Footnotes to a conflict? Rethinking questions of class and the state in post-accession Jammu and Kashmir Majumder, Debolina


Various conceptual framings have been used to approach the Kashmir conflict over the years. These accounts have portrayed Kashmir as a pawn of nation-building exercises and an existential bone of contention between nuclear-armed water-scarce India and Pakistan; as the contemporary locus of ancient ethno-religious hatreds let loose by the partition of the subcontinent; and increasingly in the broadly ‘Leftist’ circles of contemporary South Asia, as the centre-point of a confrontation between an imperial State and a dissenting indigenous populace demanding the right to freedom. This thesis offers several critiques of these approaches and suggests the employment of class- and State-theoretical paradigms to understanding the conflict. I argue that attention to the processes of capitalist transformation in Kashmir and to the changing role of securitisation in India alongside the different politico-economic projects that have captured State power and control over the process of State-building, can add complexity and dynamism to analyses of a conflict that is regularly conceived in ahistorical and politically autonomous terms. By studying class-relations in Jammu and Kashmir since the state’s controversial accession and divergent Indian State-projects since independence I advance two claims. First, “new” Kashmiri nationalist movement(s) which aspired to hegemony after accession, arose neither as an inherent tendency nursed by an incompatibility with modern Statehood or ethno-religious diversity, nor as a unique consequence of heavy-handed governance or foreign interference, but instead, as products of a particular set of socio-economic circumstances whereby cross-national and sub-national inter-class and intra-class struggles of the emerging Kashmiri bourgeoisie were deployed along “nationally relevant” parameters in order to seize State power. Second, the protraction of the insurgency in Kashmir can be understood by tracing the histories of State-sponsored securitisation as a process which initially worked to consolidate the borders of a national economy and engender national integration in pursuit of State-led development with variable social impacts, but increasingly began to be deployed to induce the militarisation of internal politics, the creation of security ‘spectacles’, and the militarisation of civil society along existing societal fault-lines, in response to the liberalisation of the Indian economy.

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