Mi / 10:00 – 11:30

Securing Sovereignty, Governing Afterlives: Secularism in Kashmir

Iymon Majid, AiE Fellow

KWI & Online (Zoom)

Can secularism be otherwise? Years ago, Saba Mahmood asked this question in response to Charles Taylor’s magisterial work, A Secular Age. I take the question a little further by asking: Can political secularism be otherwise? By looking at the entanglements between sovereignty, law, and religion in the context of Kashmir, I suggest that secularism is a technique of power through which India intends to manage conflict in the region. Recent scholarship on Indian secularism sees it under tremendous strain from Hindu nationalists governing the country. Focusing on the rise of Hindu nationalists and an associated increase in “communal violence” in the last decade might give the impression that secularism as espoused by the Indian constitution helped to safeguard the rights of minorities. In other words, it might appear that the ascent of Hindutva politics in India is a withdrawal from secularism. Rather, I suggest, the ongoing crisis in India regarding the political status of minorities is linked to secularism. I focus on the disputed region of Kashmir and argue that regardless of the political orientation of different governments (including the current one), the Indian state has used religion to secure its territorial integrity by managing and controlling a dissident population belonging to a minority religion. As a zone of conflict with a high degree of violence, Kashmir becomes especially important to understanding the extent to which secularism can be employed as a model of governance. Instead of taking Indian secularism as a given, the focus of this presentation is on how it exists in the particular context of Kashmir.