Accepted paper:

"Tunneling to the future in India?" Built infrastructure, public anxieties, and everyday resistance in Indian occupied Kashmir


Mona Bhan (DePauw University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper analyzes the relationship between river infrastructures and border and state making in Indian controlled Kashmir.

Paper long abstract:

In 2010, India's Hindustan Construction Company (HCC) bought a Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) from Italy's underground excavation company, SELI to bore a 14.5-mile long tunnel in the Himalayas in order to speed up the construction of the 330 MW hydroelectric dam on the Kishanganga river in Indian-controlled Kashmir. Designed especially for the difficult geology of the Himalayas, the tunnel embodied the hopes and aspirations of a nation competing zealously with its neighbor, Pakistan, for the waters of the Kishanganga River. The tunnel assumed significant geopolitical dimensions in a context where the early completion of the dam either by India and Pakistan could secure their first rights over the waters of the Kishanganga. The TBM also fueled anxieties about massive displacements among riverfront communities who feared the machine's devastating impacts on the local ecology. I analyze how tunnels as technosocial assemblages might help us understand the ways in which border politics is constituted and assumes particular infrastructural forms along the contested India-Pakistan border? How might such infrastructures represent fundamental transformations in the ways land and waterscapes are being repurposed for defense, economics, and territorial integration? If infrastructures are "built forms around which publics thicken," I ask what forms of publics are constituted around the tunnel and why (Harvey and Knox 2015)? What do infrastructural interventions in Kashmir's border areas convey about the nature and ambitions of Indian territoriality and alternately, how might infrastructures also become sites around which new and creative modes of resistance take form?

panel P39
Liberating Kashmir from the 'South Asian' past and identity