Political theorist and gender scholar discusses Kashmir conflict, political resistance


Evan Robinson-Johnson/The Daily Northwestern

Political theorist and gender studies scholar Dr. Inshah Malik speaks at a Tuesday event co-hosted by SASA and McSA.

Pranav Baskar, Assistant City Editor

Political theorist and gender studies scholar Dr. Inshah Malik discussed the history of violence and resistance in the Kashmir region at a Tuesday event co-hosted by Northwestern University South Asian Student Alliance and Northwestern University Muslim Cultural Students Association.

The event, hosted in Harris Hall, drew a crowd of roughly 26 students. Weinberg senior Abhishek Shah introduced Malik.

“She is a political and gender theorist by training… She is the author of the book, ‘Muslim Women, Agency, and Resistance Politics: The Case of Kashmir,’” Shah said. “We are so happy to have her here to speak about her scholarship.”

Malik began her presentation with a map, using geography to outline the shifting colonial and imperial powers that have historically influenced control of Kashmir, before tracing the timeline of Kashmir to its initial emergence, noting the geopolitical trends that have made it the complex region it is today.

“We are never taught about Kashmir,” Malik said. “But it is no small land mass — Kashmir is roughly the same size as the United Kingdom.”

Malik moved on to discuss the intensely “militarized” nature of the Kashmiri state, demarcated not by a formal border, but rather a hotly contested line of control dividing India and Pakistan that is constantly shifting with the ebbs and flows of each country’s respective military strength. She said the current conflict is characterized by a human rights crisis.

Over time, Malik said, generations of Kashmiri youth — disillusioned by a lack of self-determination — have repeatedly pushed for an autonomous state. But due to censorship and military repression, those movements have repeatedly been squashed. In 2010 alone, Malik said, more than 150 youths were shot dead by military officials for allegedly protesting.

In Kashmir, there’s one soldier for every 11 Kashmiri citizens, Malik said — making it “the most militarized region in the world.”

“If there’s anything I want you to take away from this, it’s the alarming theme of dehumanization,” Malik said.

Still, she emphasized the progressive history of the region. With the autonomous governance that Kashmir has been afforded, Malik said the territory has seen great victories: for one, Kashmir was the first state in the entire subcontinent to “end feudalism in one year.”

But Malik emphasized the dire nature of the situation in Kashmir and urged audience members to become educated on its complexities. Unlike other conflicts, she said, a lot of violence in Kashmir goes “unrecorded.”

Weinberg first-year Ayesha Lat said she enjoyed the lecture and found it helpful and informative.

“Even though my parents are from the India, I’ve always wanted to learn more about the conflict,” Lat said. “This was enlightening.”

As the event wrapped up, Malik discussed her goal as a scholar: to bring out “a repressed consciousness.”

Malik said while no “consciousness” of the conflict is perfect, the voice of Kashmiris has often gone unheard — making it especially essential today.

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Twitter: @pranav_baskar