We sat under a sign that read Avenue of Remembrance in the Auburn Botanical Gardens. Kevin asked, “So how big is Kashmir? Could you say it’s something similar to the state of Victoria?” India Occupied Kashmir. Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. China Occupied Kashmir. The State of Jammu and Kashmir. Azad Kashmir. Aksai Chin. Ladakh. The Valley. Jammu. The Northern Areas. Leh. Kargil. Srinagar. Gilgit. Muzaffarabad. Jammu. Siachen. The Line of Control (LOC) and the Line of Actual Control (LAC)…
The answer to Kevin’s question depends upon who is drawing the map. And as lines are drawn and re-drawn, identities formed and re-formed, the way we actually experience space will never fit comfortably within the boundaries of a single line. A year or so earlier there was a small article in a newspaper in Delhi that described how the Indian government were recalling all Chinese manufactured globes because China’s version of the world depicted Kashmir as a nation independent of India.
“I have a book at home about India. Actually it’s called India. And before coming here, I searched its pages for Kashmir. And do you know what? In all of its 500-odd pages Kashmir is only mentioned in a few brief paragraphs.” Kevin went on, “But what I found most interesting was how the author described Kashmir, along with places like Israel and Palestine, as a product of the partitions made by the British after WWII.”
It is not so much that Kashmir (and India and Pakistan for that matter) suddenly appeared from nowhere. Rather the bifurcations the British drew built distinct geographical lines and formulated identities that caused places and people to begin to exist in different ways than how they previously had. Imagine a series of roadblocks built upon what had otherwise been an open highway.
India’s occupation of Kashmir today is evidence of the various forms of post-colonial-colonialism that are taking place in the world today. The colonised too easily become the coloniser. Kashmir is not alone, many places are shackled to the ongoing processes of colonisation across South Asia and the world. Kevin’s wife is of Goan Portuguese descent. I was surprised to learn from him that the Portuguese colonisation of Goa didn’t actually cease until 1961, well after India’s wider period of Independence from the British.
“I saw something simple and powerful the other day. It took me by surprise. It is something very rare.” Kevin’s voice became softer as his wonder rose, “One of our politicians, I forget who now, stood up in parliament and just asked everyone, When are we going to stop shooting people and begin to speak to them? Imagine the simplicity in that.”