• Kashmiri nationalism beyond the nation state

      Ali, Nasreen (SAGE, 2002-01-01)
      Fifty years on the Kashmir conflict rumbles on. The various parties to the dispute engage in highly polemical exchanges in a variety of media, artillery shells cross the line of control and the region remains a potential nuclear flashpaint. Given the geopolitical aspects of the conflict, it is not surprising that the Kashmiri dispute continues to be studied primarily in terms of relations between India and Pakistan, or as a threat to regional stability. At the heart of the Kashmir conflict is the issue of identity, and the rival claims of India, Pakistan and Kashmiris all depend on what the exact nature of Kashmir (an intrinsic part of the Mahabharata, Muslim, indigenous or secular) is. The plethora of terms that designate the various political and territorial configurations in the dispute (Indian-occupied Kashmir, Pakistanioccupied Kashmir, Indian-administered Kashmir, Jammu and Kashmir, Azad Kashmir) point to the absence of even a rudimentary consensus about the identity of Kashmir and Kashmiris. While the study of the dispute has produced a copious literature in terms of international relations, there has been much less work done on the relationship between the articulation of a distinct Kashmiri identity and the existence of a large diasporic population. It is this relationship that I want to explore in this article. While I concede the salience of many other factors contributing to the Kashmiri dispute (the rival claims of Pakistan and India, and the role of the various armed forces in the region) my purpose is to examine the way a particular representation of Kashmir has become increasingly prominent, one that is not reducible to the machinations of the Pakistani or Indian governments or their clients. It is sometimes suggested that Kashmiris have failed to establish themselves as a nation and Kashmiri identity continues to be a rather fragile affair. This view that Kashmiris do not constitute a genuine distinct nationality was dominant until very recently, and to some extent is still dominant amongst Pakistanis and Indians. I suggest that this is only the case if we continue to see the formations of nations and ethnic identity through the prism of nineteenth-century notions of collective identity.’ In this article I want to show how developments in globalisation have produced a new matrix through which it is possible to configure Kashmiri identity as a diasporic form. I will do this in two ways. Using research from ethnographic work carried out in Luton, I will first show the way in which the contemporary articulation of Kashmiris-ness as a distinct ethnicity has been made possible by the settlement of Kashmiris outside historical ideas of what constituted Kashmir. I want to show that the creation of a Kashmiri identity is heavily dependant on the displacement and resettlement of Kashmiris outside of their imagined homeland. In other words, the discourse of Kashmiriyat emerges in a diasporic space. Second, I will show how this discourse recruits its subjects and projects its collective identity in a de-terntorialised diasporic context. In other words, this article has two major themes to it. The first theme examines the way Kashmiri identity is narrated and focuses on the variety of agents responsible for the construction of this Kashmiri-ness. The second theme examines the way in which a group of people (who constitute most of my respondents) express their Kashmiri-ness in both a global and local context.