Encroachers on their own land:
India’s transition from military-imperialism to settler colonialism in Kashmir
Keywords: Encroachment, occupation, settler colonialism, military-imperialism, home demolition, dispossession, property
This paper examines a period of transition in the approach of the Indian state to Kashmir from roughly 2014 through today, comparing dispossession under earlier practices of military-imperial land seizures and occupation to new regimes of dispossession through state-level bureaucracy, planning schemes and “encroachment” clearance for capital projects. I suggest that this period represents the end of a decades-long transition from an indirect military-imperial occupation to direct settler colonial rule. It also represents a new moment of mass dispossession, toward the eventual goal of merging Kashmir with India and creating a unified Hindu state. Before this transition, most dispossession in Kashmir happened outside legal frameworks, and extrajudicial executions and land seizures were either ignored or denied by the state. The last several years have seen the increasing operationalization of “legal” mechanisms to take land for non-military, “development” projects. I look closely at the afterlives of “encroachment,” a colonial era urban planning designation that has been increasingly deployed by the Indian state in Kashmir to conduct mass evictions. I also look at increases in home demolitions by Indian military forces, theorizing them both as a terror tactic to instill fear and maintain precarity in Indigenous populations as well as a mechanism for land acquisition.