December 06, 2022.
Normalization means “colonization of the mind,” whereby the oppressed subject comes to believe that the oppressor’s reality is the only “normal” reality that must be subscribed to, and that the oppression is a fact of life that must be subscribed to. Normalization exercises also include having conversations and organizing events where the occupied territory is casually mentioned and shown to be a natural, seamless, historic part of the occupying state, as normally as any other part of the same state. Normalization is intended for multiple audiences: both the colonized, the broader society of the colonial power, as well as international audiences. It is meant to show that all is fine, people are happy with India, and the only trouble is instigated by outside powers (namely, Pakistan). The colonized peoples participation in such events also normalizes the occupying power and their presence and legitimacy.
In recent times there has been an exponential growth in the number of normalization events organized by the indian state in Kashmir. These events include but are not limited to tourism, music, literary, and cultural fests, as well as militarized humanitarianism in the form of sports events and charity efforts organized by the indian army.
Tourism has been one of india’s primary weapons when it comes to normalizing occupation. It is often highlighted that the economy of Kashmir is heavily dependent on tourism, when in fact, it only contributes to under 7% of its GDP. The india installed Jammu and Kashmir government’s official website states that “Jammu and Kashmir’s economy is predominantly dependent on agriculture and allied activites.” However, india has been long making efforts to kill the agricultural industry of Kashmir, and this year they completely broke down the otherwise thriving apple industry.
On the other hand, tourists from all over india are invited to Kashmir in the name of events like tulip fests, to make sure that the casual discourse of Kashmir being an “integral” and desirable part of Kashmir remains in conversation and popular in the broader Indian culture. With record-numbers of Indian tourists visiting Kashmir, India is also able to tell the international community that things are “normal” in Kashmir.
In March 2022, the Gulmarg Development Authority (a subsidiary of the state tourism department), in collaboration with the indian army, organized “Amrit Jyoti Gulmarg Winter Festival”. Among other things, this was highlighted as a masterful musical event that enthralled the audience. As crowds from all over india filled Gulmarg and casually claimed Kashmir as their own, the fest’s strong Hindi name itself rings alarm bells. Historically, Kashmir has never been home to any Hindi speaking community, and this clearly is an open arrow of indian colonialism fired at Kashmiris.
Recently, writers from all over india got together in Kashmir for a literary fest organized by Kumaon. These writers were predominantly Kashmiri Pandits who align with the colonial agenda of the indian state in Kashmir. While the founder of the Kumaon Lit Fest casually claimed Kashmir to be india, she also urged people to “forget the past 30 years of conflict and talk about another side of Kashmir”. This blatant condoning and dismissing of the atrocities waged by the indian state in Kashmir is exactly why activities like these are facilitated by the indian state in Kashmir.
Involving occupying forces in visibly “humanitarian” work is a smoke screen by colonizing and occupying forces. India’s occupation has been using this tactic for a long time now and only seems to have upped that use in recent times. The indian army in Kashmir is seen organizing talent hunts, self-defence workshops for young girls, educational tours, film festivals, sports tournaments, etc. Meanwhile, indian forces have been responsible for killing 1081 civilians between just the years 2008-2018.
While india continues to wage war against Kashmiris and their spirit of freedom from the indian occupation, the indian state has amplified the use of normalization. Normalization of occupation and building of discourses where Kashmir is casually mentioned as a part of india and where it is deemed to be happy and thriving under Indian colonization has a larger impact on the freedom struggle of Kashmir than one may assume. It allows india to put up a smoke screen, which impacts global solidarity. Oftentimes, local Kashmiri artists are used by the state to carry this agenda, either under security threats or under the impression that these fests and events are not connected to the state. People are often forced or paid to attend these events to show large, happy Kashmiri crowds. Unfortunately, some participate willingly, knowing the implications for their involvement in such events.
Resisting these normalization events and seeing them for what they actually are, forms a huge part of resistance against the indian occupation. Kashmiris should resist taking part, attending, or sponsoring such events. As the state moves towards “normalization”, we must also actively monitor and make noise around these insidious events and developments and NOT allow India’s occupation to be normalized.
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Stand With Kashmir (SWK) is a Kashmiri-driven independent, transnational, grassroots movement committed to standing in solidarity with the people of indian-occupied Kashmir in ending the indian occupation of their homeland and supporting the right to self-determination of the pre-partition state of Jammu and Kashmir. We want to hear from you. If you have general inquiries, suggestions, or concerns, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.