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Mainstream, VOL LX No 7, New Delhi, February 5, 2022

Interrogating ‘Normalcy’ in the Kashmir Valley | Arup Kumar Sen

Friday 4 February 2022, by Arup Kumar Sen

The Indian State is projecting Kashmir as a State enjoying the state of normalcy. However, there is no doubt in our mind that Kashmir has been transformed into a State of Exception, more distinctly after the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution in 2019. To put it theoretically in the words of Giorgio Agamben: “This transformation of a provisional and exceptional measure into a technique of government threatens radically to alter — in fact, has already palpably altered — the structure and meaning of the traditional distinction between constitutional forms. Indeed, from this perspective, the state of exception appears as a threshold of indeterminacy between democracy and absolutism”. (Giorgio Agamben, Stateof Exception, The University of Chicago Press, 2005)

Very recently, Ather Zia, a Kashmiri poet and anthropologist, has narrated the state of “normalcy” prevailing in the Kashmir Valley: “For Kashmiris, normalcy has ceased its relationship with the comfort or discomfort of routines. It is not in the life beyond social distancing, jostling for the piping hot bread from the corner bakery or that cup of tea from the roadside stall. It is not going out or staying inside with or without the mask. It is not the laidback joys or tribulations of everyday” (Outlook, January 17, 2022).

Zia has also interrogated the ways of restoring normalcy “in a state of exception with a pandemic looming on the horizon”:

Despite the extreme communication clampdown, a few videos surfaced on social media. They showed Ajit Doval, the National Security Advisor, eating biryani on the roadside with a few hand-picked Kashmiris. Where on earth in the strictest of curfews is biryani cooked to be eaten on the street with random lackeys. Doval reported there was peace and normalcy in Kashmir; the situation was “event free” ...Normalcy, in the theatre of Kashmir, is thus a performance, a spectacle. It does not need to exist...Normalcy in Kashmir is not a state of life, but a condition of subjugation. It is woven into every movement. Manufactured in a post-truth India, normalcy in Kashmir is a shiny factoid. (ibid.)

Ather Zia’s narrative of the state of “normalcy” in Kashmir unsettles the ethical foundations of the Indian State.

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