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Body of Victim, Body of Warrior: Refugee Families and the Making of Kashmiri Jihadists / Edition 1

Body of Victim, Body of Warrior: Refugee Families and the Making of Kashmiri Jihadists / Edition 1

by Cabeiri deBergh RobinsonCabeiri deBergh Robinson
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This book provides a fascinating look at the creation of contemporary Muslim jihadists. Basing the book on her long-term fieldwork in the disputed borderlands between Pakistan and India, Cabeiri deBergh Robinson tells the stories of people whose lives and families have been shaped by a long history of political conflict. Interweaving historical and ethnographic evidence, Robinson explains how refuge-seeking has become a socially and politically debased practice in the Kashmir region and why this devaluation has turned refugee men into potential militants. She reveals the fraught social processes by which individuals and families produce and maintain a modern jihad, and she shows how Muslim refugees have forged an Islamic notion of rights—a hybrid of global political ideals that adopts the language of human rights and humanitarianism as a means to rethink refugees’ positions in transnational communities. Jihad is no longer seen as a collective fight for the sovereignty of the Islamic polity, but instead as a personal struggle to establish the security of Muslim bodies against political violence, torture, and rape. Robinson describes how this new understanding has contributed to the popularization of jihad in the Kashmir region, decentered religious institutions as regulators of jihad in practice, and turned the families of refugee youths into the ultimate mediators of entrance into militant organizations. This provocative book challenges the idea that extremism in modern Muslim societies is the natural by-product of a clash of civilizations, of a universal Islamist ideology, or of fundamentalist conversion.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780520274211
Publisher: University of California Press
Publication date: 03/08/2013
Series: South Asia Across the Disciplines
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 342
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Cabeiri deBergh Robinson is Assistant Professor of International Studies & South Asian Studies at the Jackson School of International Studies, University of Washington.

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Body of Victim, Body of Warrior

Refugee Families and the Making of Kashmiri Jihadists

By Cabeiri deBergh Robinson


Copyright © 2013 The Regents of the University of California
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-520-95454-0


Between War and Refuge in Jammu and Kashmir


THE PRINCELY STATE OF JAMMU AND KASHMIR was formed by treaty agreement between the British Colonial Government of India and the Sikh governor of Jammu in 1846. The state was ruled by the Dogra Maharajas until 1947, when internal political and armed resistance and war between the new postcolonial nation-states of India and Pakistan ended monarchical rule. The Indian Princely States were not subject to the partition of the British territories in 1947; the accession of each principality was negotiated between the monarch of the State and the leaders of both the Indian National Congress and the Pakistan Muslim League—the political parties that ran the first postcolonial governments of India and Pakistan during the period of constitution formation. When the British Government of India transferred power to the independent postcolonial states of India and Pakistan on August 14, 1947, the monarch of the Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir had acceded to neither India nor Pakistan. Within months of independence, India and Pakistan had troops on the ground in the Princely State's Kashmir Province. This first war between India and Pakistan was ambiguously resolved with a United Nations–negotiated ceasefire in 1949. The state was functionally divided, and nearly a quarter of its people were displaced within the territories of the former Princely State or into India and Pakistan.

This politico-geographical division was supposed to be temporary, until a United Nations–recommended referendum could be carried out. There was, at first, no question of changing the terms of legal political belonging to the Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir. The people of the Indian Princely States were "state subjects," not British colonial subjects; unless an Indian monarch had acceded to one or the other of the Dominions before the Partition, the ruler's displaced subjects were not counted as refugees who would have to be rehabilitated. Both people who were displaced by political violence in the Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir between 1947 and 1949 and relief administrators in Pakistan and India made an important distinction between those (Kashmiri) refugees who were to return to their homes and those (Partition) refugees who would be resettled as permanent immigrants; "hereditary state subjects" of the Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir were supposed to return to their homes, lands, and properties. By the time the matter of princely state subjects was negotiated in the Karachi Agreement of March 1949, the (former) Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir was a "disputed territory" and the subject of a UN resolution. Its refugees were a specifically named part of the dispute-resolution process. Practices of identifying, regulating, and documenting Kashmiri refugees developed historically in the context of regional and international concern for (and dispute over) a Jammu-and-Kashmir that is both a former and a not-yet or a never-to-be political entity. The Hereditary State Subject provisions were adopted by the provincial successor states of both Jammu and Kashmir State (in India) and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (administered by Pakistan) as the basis of their legal frameworks for recognizing citizen-subjects of the disputed former Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir.

The 1949 UN Ceasefire Line—now called the LoC (military Line of Control) —simultaneously symbolizes and obscures the historical experiences of people who live in the divided regions of the former Princely State. On post-1949 maps of India and Pakistan, the LoC is a dotted line, representing its contested status. On the ground, it has been a permeable boundary without exact demarcation that has nonetheless shaped people's apprehension of the political landscape. It forged a frontier through landscapes that people had previously experienced as contiguous, and these displaced people encountered the line not as a specific place but as a profound shift in the ways they experienced political power. Paradoxically, the LoC has had a more concrete presence when its physical location has been less certain—during periods of warfare. Thus, the line has had a cyclical as well as historical temporality; it has become more borderlike over time, but it has shifted in each war and has been serially revisited as a site of possible territorial settlement between India and Pakistan. This speculation has made it possible to envision the LoC gone or redrawn, even while it has become more entrenched. It has become an object of ideological struggle in daily life, even as the act of transgressing it has been criminalized by the state. The LoC becomes a real social object at the moment when people encounter new regimes of power, but it does not exclusively regulate the conception of either relatedness or political belonging. Instead, the social dynamics within bisected regions of the (former) Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir reveal the importance of cross-border alliances—including those that are interrupted—to the ongoing cultural construction of social relatedness. In this sense, the greater Kashmir region was, and remains, a borderland in which forms of social regulation contest rather than buttress the regulatory processes of the state.

The Kashmir Dispute is often called the "unfinished business of Partition." Explanations of the dispute paradigmatically begin by recounting the origins of the territorial dispute between India and Pakistan. The story I tell here is different, and it has a different history. The continuing conflict in the Kashmir region is fundamentally not a territorial dispute between states. It is a struggle by the ruled to establish limits on the sovereign power of their rulers. Social groups, political parties, and the regional successor states of the monarchical State of Jammu and Kashmir employ the symbolic territoriality inherent in categories of political identity to make claims on absent and lost geographic territories through the territory of the political body. In the context of unresolved political status, the Kashmir borderlands extend not only across the disputed LoC or into the "occupied" territories but also through the indeterminate sovereignty of the bodies of the borderlands' subjects.

The background to this story is about the conflicts and contestations for political recognition that were happening at the time of decolonization, when Kashmiri peoples' struggles for political rights were with the monarch of Jammu and Kashmir, not with the British colonial power or with the postcolonial nation-states of India and Pakistan.


The Partition of British India was a long process of creating political and cultural (rather than simply territorial) separations. In this process, the postcolonial states were formed not only by dividing colonial holdings but also by dissolving the borders of hundreds of tributary polities and integrating the semi-autonomous Indian Princely States and their peoples. The postcolonial historiography of India and Pakistan has highlighted the forms of modern collective politics that were prominent in British India, but the decolonization and partition process was also shaped by political forms that emerged in the Princely States and that disappeared after their integration. In the Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir, an articulation of subject peoples as rights-bearing subjects developed during the period when sovereignty was vested with the monarchical court. This idea of the distinct identity and rights of the people-of-the-state (awam-e-riyasat) or people-of-Kashmir (awam-e-kashmir) still underlies and competes with other postcolonial articulations of political and cultural belonging.

The Indian Princely States were governed by hereditary monarchs under relationships of suzerainty and paramountcy with the British colonial government of India. How autonomous these states really were is the subject of significant debate in the historiography of South Asia. One of the challenges in the historiography of the Indian States, specifically in evaluating their relative sovereignty, has been their vast differences in size and historical state formation. There were numerous small states that commanded little autonomy (on the scale of Jammu and Kashmir's smaller jagirs and much smaller than its internal wazarats). There were also much larger Indian States, like Jammu and Kashmir, with composite political structures, heterogeneous regional cultures, and transregional networks of relationships to other Princely States that exercised aspects of sovereign control over their subjects. The monarchs of these more autonomous states had to establish new forms of legitimate authority over their subjects as they centralized their power during the colonial period.

The Treaty of Amritsar, signed in 1846, demarcated the territorial borders of a new Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir—the riyasat-e-jammu-o-kashmir. Unlike established Indian States with hereditary thrones, Jammu and Kashmir had not had a political center of historical state expansion, and sovereignty within the state was dispersed. Like other Indian Princes, the Maharajas' political universe included limitations on their influence in matters outside their territorial boundaries, but they enjoyed considerable security at the treaty boundaries of the state. While the Maharajas of Jammu and Kashmir struggled with British attempts to influence the internal politics of the court, the real challenge of kingship in the Princely State was to centralize power and establish new relationships between the ruler and his subjects and between the state and its political community, which eliminated the intermediate forms of layered sovereignty within the treaty state.

The first political movements in the Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir developed out of demands for protections against arbitrary rule and guarantees of patronage and employment for its subjects . Out of those movements, the "hereditary state subject" emerged as the primary category of political identity for the State's peoples, and the legal provisions for state subject recognition were codified and elaborated by the Maharaja's government between 1912 and 1932. Protections from arbitrary rule were linked with establishing and recognizing land-holding rights, both usufruct and proprietary, which created a distinction between the monarchy's sovereignty over territory and its sovereignty over its subjects. The first articulation of this distinction emerged during the period of agrarian land reforms, and the category mulki (the people of the land) emerged as a legal–administrative category in the Kashmiri Nationals' Law of 1912. The Hereditary State Subject Order of 1927 (amended 1932) clearly distinguished between state subjects who had rights to government office and land use and ownership versus those (non-state subjects) who did not have such rights. The concept of the awam-e-kashmir or awam-e-riyasat became a political category through which it was possible to articulate new limits on princely sovereignty, and Jammu and Kashmir state subjects demanded further political recognition in the form of representation and franchise.

At the historical juncture of liberation struggles against monarchical rule and the dissolution of colonial India, the relationship between land rights and protection from arbitrary rule informed both elite and popular political mobilization in the Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir. Between 1947 and 1949, the "Azad Kashmir Government" based in the town of Pulandri, in the Poonch Jagir, maintained the state subject as its definition of Kashmiri political identity, as did the "Emergency Interim Government of Jammu and Kashmir State" based in the city of Srinagar, the summer capital of the Princely State. After 1950, both India and Pakistan began to integrate the regions of the former Princely State that were under their control. The Princely State's own competing successor regimes—the Government of Azad Kashmir (in Pakistan-administered territory) and the Government of Jammu and Kashmir State (in Indian-administered territory)—struggled to maintain regional autonomy from the administrator states of India and Pakistan; they did this in part by maintaining the historical distinction between the subject-citizens of the former monarchical state and citizens of the new nation-states of Pakistan and India.

The Awam-e-Riyasat: Making the State, Making Its Subjects

In 1846, the new Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir had been a unified polity only in name, and only at its borders. The Treaty of Amritsar, which set the state's territorial borders, was part of the negotiated settlement that ended a war between the British and Sikh rulers of the Punjab and brought the Punjab under colonial control. Within the new state were numerous hereditary estates and chieftainships that had been awarded by the Sikh court at Lahore and by the Mughal, Afghan, and Tibetan monarchs who had once had feudatory arrangement with rulers within the treaty borders. With the borders of the new state secure, but internal control uncertain, the Dogra Maharajas of Jammu and Kashmir focused on consolidating political and administrative authority.

The eventual internal organization of the Princely State reflected localized sociopolitical alliances as well as the monarchs' uneven consolidation of political power within the borders established by the Treaty of Amritsar—a process by no means complete in 1947. Jammu Province, Kashmir Province, and the Frontier Ilaquas (Frontier Areas) made up the state's three large administrative units. The administrative hierarchy was most consolidated in Jammu and Kashmir Provinces; each was divided into districts that were in turn distinguished by taxation units called tehsils. Chenani Jagir and Poonch Jagir were incorporated into Jammu Province only in the 1930s. The Frontier Ilaquas consisted of the Ladakh Wazarat, the Gilgit Agency, the vassal states of Hunza and Nagar, and the tribal region of Chilas (which was never successfully surveyed by the monarchical state). These areas had a semi-autonomous feudatory status within the Princely State, which had limited administrative control.

To establish their power, the Princely State's first Maharajas (Gulab Singh and Ranbir Singh) began consolidating the dispersed jagirdari system of land tenancy and revenue administration, in which the revenue of a territorial estate (jagir) and the responsibility of governing it accrued to an appointed official (jagirdar) who owed allegiance to the monarch. Establishing a consolidated administrative hierarchy involved bringing the semi-independent hereditary jagirs—such as Chenani Jagir and Poonch Jagir—into a subordinate relationship with the Maharaja's court and enforcing the state's claim that all land was government property (khalsah). The Maharajas also extended the system of containment and exit permits (rehdari) that had been used by the Sikh governors of the Kashmir Valley to the whole of the Princely State, in an effort to prevent people who were subject to taxation in the form of compulsory corvee labor (begar) from leaving the state or migrating out of their taxation divisions.

Identifying awam-e-riyasat (people of the state) as a category of political belonging, administration, and governance first developed in the 1880s, during the agrarian land reforms of the jagirdir system. During that period, famine and excessive begar led to large-scale migrations to the Punjab. The colonial administration of Punjab wanted a stable rural agricultural population; the British India Office considered migrations a security issue because the Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir had become a frontier between the British colonial empire and Russian imperial projects in Central Asia. The land-settlement assessments in the state began in 1887, carried out by an officer of the British colonial government. British colonial permanent settlement practices were associated with the introduction of capitalist revenue systems and gradually transformed occupancy rights into proprietary rights. However, in the Princely States, these settlements transferred usufruct rights but not proprietary rights, which remained instead with the monarch, albeit in attenuated form. In Jammu and Kashmir, land reforms focused on imposing limitations on begar by establishing taxation assessments in cash or as a share of agricultural product and by granting occupancy and usufruct rights to cultivators. The Jammu and Kashmir Land Settlement Act identified people—kashmir mulki—who had usufruct claims on land and who had rights to state patronage in the form of government employment. The legislation also articulated a category of people who did not have such rights—the gairmulki (people not of the land).


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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
List of Abbreviations
Note on Names, Transliteration, and Photographs

Preface: The Kashmir Dispute and the Conflicts Within Conflict Ethnography

Introduction: The Social Production of Jihad

Part One
Between Hijarat and Jihad in Azad Kashmir
1 • Between War and Refuge in Jammu and Kashmir: Displacement, Borders, and the Boundaries of Political Belonging
2 Protective Migration and Armed Struggle: Political Violence and the Limits of Victimization in Islam

Part Two
The Historical Emergence of Kashmiri Refugees as Political Subjects
3 Forging Political Identities, 1947–1988: The South Asian Refugee Regime and Refugee Resettlement Villages
4 Transforming Political Identities, 1989–2001: Refugee Camps in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and the International Refugee Regime

Part Three
Body of Victim, Body of Warrior
5 Human Rights and Jihad: Victimization and the Sovereignty of the Body
6 The Mujahid as Family-Man: Sex, Death, and the Warrior’s (Im)pure Body

Conclusion: From Muhajir to Mujahid to Jihadi in the Global Order of Things
Postscript: And, “Humanitarian Jihad”


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