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Gaur, Meenu (2010) Kashmir on screen : region, religion and secularism in Hindi cinema. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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The Kashmir dispute has led to two wars (1947-1948, 1965), serious military encounters (1999,2001) between India and Pakistan, as well as a militant and nonmilitant separatist movement seeking independence for Kashmir (1989- ). While this conflict has been subjected to sustained analysis by academics and journalists, Kashmir's centrality to the public culture ofIndia, explored here through a study of Hindi cinema, has received little to no attention in the considerable literature on the area. The articulations of Kashmir in Hindi cinema - as a paradise on earth, sacred site of Hinduism, home ofIndia's spiritual and syncretistic traditions, pivotal to the idea of an eternal Indian civilization - help to reveal the attachments that guide 'Indian' claims on Kashmir. This study addresses the question of how, why and in what ways Kashmir is presented as a 'special' region in Hindi cinema. In doing so it initiates a discussion on region and religion in Hindi cinema, scholarship on which has long prioritized the 'nation'. As India's only Muslim-majority regional state, divided between India and Pakistan, Kashmir became a symbol of Indian secularism, a fact that is often reiterated in political discourse, as well as in academic research on the Kashmir dispute. Paradoxically, this symbol of Indian secularism, it is argued, is a site for religious contestations in Hindi cinema. The synonymy between Indian and Hindu in Kashmir films rests on the disavowal of a 'Muslim' Kashmir, so as to allay a Hindu majoritarian anxiety about a Muslim majority region in post-partition India. Therefore, the abstract equality of secularism, and the neutrality of 'national culture' remain merely 'ideals' in India's dominant form of public culture, namely Hindi cinema. The representations of Kashmir in Hindi cinema make explicit the regional and religious contestations over the national and the secular, providing a far more diverse account of history, culture and politics in India than is commonly acknowledged by 'official' discourses, mainstream historiography, and nation-centred (film) scholarship.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Rachel Dwyer
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 22 Jan 2020 10:29

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