- LoC:The Line "out" of Control in the Region of Kashmir
In 2013 Reshma Bi, a seventy-year-old Kashmiri woman, was pining for her sons in her native village of Charonda, in the Uri sector of the Indian-administered area of Kashmir. A few years earlier, Reshma's sons had fled to the Pakistan-administered side of Kashmir to escape police persecution because of their alleged role in cross-LOC trafficking. Uri is a garrison town near the Line of Control that separates the two regions of Kashmir under separate Indian and Pakistani control. The erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, now divided and under Indian military occupation, stands as a testament to the fraught postcolonial aftermath of the partitioning of India and Pakistan in 1947, which is manifested in the landmark divide, the Line of Control. The LoC is a formal ceasefire line, arbitrated between the newly independent states of India and Pakistan by the UN in 1949,1 which partitions Kashmir into the Pakistan-occupied region, or Azad (Free) Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), and the Indian-occupied territory, known as the State of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). This was meant to be a temporary bifurcation till a plebiscite took place in the region, but instead, India and Pakistan have waged three full-scale wars over Kashmir. Low-intensity warfare remains ongoing at the LoC, which has been called the most dangerous place on earth.2 Currently, in Indian-occupied Kashmir there are about 700,000 Indian troops; with a Kashmiri population of about 5.5 million, that is 1 soldier for every 8 Kashmiris, making Kashmir one of the world's most militarized regions. More than 70,000 people have been reported killed in counterinsurgency operations, more than 8,000 forcibly disappeared, and more than 60,000 subjected to custodial torture.3
In the Indian mainstream discourse particularly, the lack of attention to the unceasing contestations of the bifurcation of Kashmir, its layered history and the complexities of Kashmiri subjectivities, has been a symptom of the shortsighted political analysis of the region.4 The division of Kashmir continues to animate the politics of Kashmiri Muslims as well as the significant Kashmiri minority populations, and it shapes their politics of survival and hopes for independence, as well as fueling the policies of the two adversarial nation-states.5 [End Page 1037] However, in the mainstream Indian discourse, and to a lesser extent in the Pakistani mainstream one, the Kashmir issue generally is framed as a black-and-white one. In India, Kashmir is generally framed through the lens of Pakistan's proxy war, religious terrorism, or a domestic dispute.
The poignant details of lives such as Reshma's and other Kashmiris across the contested divide where the LoC stands illuminate the ways it is not a final partition but a symbol of a political promise. Reshma was agonized by separation from her children and one day decided to just walk across the LoC and join her sons permanently, as it would be impossible for her to return the way she had left. For Reshma, this act of crossing the LoC was a personal decision, but it brought the two nuclear nations, India and Pakistan, to the brink of war in 2013. The tenuous ceasefire agreement in 2004 between the Indian and Pakistani armies could not withstand what should have just been a grandmother's routine family visit to her erstwhile-undivided village. Within one week of Reshma's crossing the LoC, the Indian soldiers erected new bunkers to obstruct mobility across the LoC. The Pakistani troops objected to Indian constructions, which violated the ceasefire, and tensions escalated, resulting in killings of soldiers and civilians on both sides.
Epistemic Violence of "Border" Talk?
In response to this incident, a leading Indian newspaper claimed, "Tit-for-tat actions over a case of border crossing."6 It is significant that the report used the word border for LoC with ease, and even the allegation against Reshma's son was categorized as "cross-border" trafficking rather than a "cross-LOC" issue. The interchangeability of LoC with border is not new but is symbolic of the routine erasure...