India’s Future in Crisis? Kashmir, Assam, and the Fate of Democracy

Kashmir valley in India’s northwest, where the majestic Himalaya and Karakorum mountains merge, was once prized by poets and mystics as a heaven on earth. Today, the region has been transformed into what some call “an open prison.”

On Aug. 5, the Government of India imposed a total lockdown over Kashmir, deploying an additional 35,000 troops to augment the 500,000 armed personnel already posted there. Communications have been disrupted, people are not allowed to assemble in public, and approximately 2,000 local leaders, opposition politicians, and young men have been imprisoned. Human rights violations are going unreported, despite concerns expressed by the international community, including the United Nations. Meanwhile, in India’s northeast, in the state of Assam, the government released a National Register of Citizens on August 31st that immediately designated almost two million residents as noncitizens.

The noncitizens are now threatened with deportation and several thousands have already been sent to detention centers. The government of India’s programs against minorities in these regions does not appear to be an episodic event; rather, it appears to be part of a new narrative about citizenship and belonging that raises existential questions about the future of India’s democracy. The current condition of the vulnerable human in India, and violence against religious minorities, which includes Christians, Buddhists, Muslims and others, calls for scholarly reflection and discussion.

Please join our panel of experts as they explore the fate of India’s democracy and its significance for the world.


James Rush, Arizona State University (moderator)
James Rush is a professor of history at Arizona State University. He was a Peace Corps volunteer in Malaysia and subsequently studied modern Southeast Asian history at Yale University, where he received his doctoral degree. His work explores issues of colonialism and religion in 19th and 20th century Indonesia. Rush is currently interim director of ASU’s Center for Asian Research and formerly served as head of the history faculty and director of ASU’s program in Southeast Asian studies.

Ather Zia, University of Northern Colorado Greeley
Ather Zia is assistant professor of anthropology and gender studies at the University of Northern Colorado at Greeley. She holds a doctoral degree in anthropology from the University of California at Irvine. She also holds two master's degrees, one in communications from California State University Fullerton and another in journalism from Kashmir University. She has worked as a journalist with the BBC World Service, and had a brief stint as a civil servant with the Kashmir government. Her essays and creative work including fiction and poetry have appeared in a variety of magazines, and her research focuses on enforced disappearances, militarization, gender, and human rights abuses in Indian administered Kashmir.

Suvir Kaul, University of Pennsylvania
Suvir Kaul is the A. M. Rosenthal Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania. He received his bachelor’s, master’s, and M. Phil degrees from the University of Delhi, and his doctoral degree from Cornell University. He teaches courses in eighteenth-century British literature, contemporary South Asian writing in English, and in literary and critical theory. He is the author of "Of Gardens and Graves: Essays on Kashmir; Poems in Translation" (New Delhi: Three Essays Collective, 2015; Durham: Duke University Press, 2016), and edited a collection of essays titled "The Partitions of Memory: The Afterlife of the Division of India" (Delhi: Permanent Black, 2001; London: C. Hurst, 2001; Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002).

Yasmin Saikia, Arizona State University
Yasmin Saikia is the Hardt-Nickachos Chair in Peace Studies at the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict and a professor of history in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies at Arizona State University. Her work focuses on the histories of memory and identity; women, war, and peace; the premodern and contemporary in South Asia (India, Pakistan and Bangladesh); and the history of Islam and Islamic values of peace.  As the Hardt-Nickachos Chair in Peace Studies she advances the study of peace with a more humanities-oriented approach by paying attention to culture, history, and individual and group agency. As a historian of South Asia, she is concerned with religion, gender, identity and memory in South Asia.

Daniel Rothenberg, Arizona State University
Daniel Rothenberg is a professor of practice in ASU’s School of Politics and Global Studies at Arizona State University and co-director of the Center on the Future of War, and a senior fellow at New America. He also co-directs the online master's program in global security. Previously, he was the founding executive director of the Center for Law and Global Affairs at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and the managing director of international projects at the International Human Rights Law Institute at DePaul University College of Law. Rothenberg has designed and managed rule-of-law and human rights projects in Afghanistan, Iraq, Central Africa and throughout Latin America, including programs to train human rights NGOs, aid indigenous peoples in using international legal remedies, support gender justice, and collect and analyze thousands of first-person narratives from victims of atrocities.

Oct 02 2019 - 6:30pm
Lattie F. Coor Hall Room 170
Tempe campus