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Hudson Institute hosted a round table discussion with Dr. Navnita Behera titled “If the Streets Could Talk: Unraveling the Kashmir Conflict”. The primary purpose of Dr. Behera’s research has been to offer alternate perspectives on the Kashmir issue. She aims to pierce the dominant narratives about Kashmir and listen to the narratives of everyday, “on the streets” Kashmiris. Thus, Dr. Behera argues that if we had listened to Kashmir at the street-level, we would’ve been able to predict many of the events that are now viewed as historical junctures.

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Her presentation divides the Kashmir conflict into four phases, one from 1980-1990, one from 1991-2001, one from 2001-2009, and one from 2010-2019. In the first phase, she argues that the overwhelming feeling of “on the streets” Kashmiris was a widespread defiance toward India and Indian laws and institutions. This transitioned in the second phase into of both an increase in militancy and widespread defiance of militants by ordinary Kashmiris. The third phase was marked by a revival of the democratic process and defiance of militant groups who threatened (and enacted) violence on those who participated. At this point, militants were socially ostracized by Kashmiris. The fourth phase, from 2010 to the present is marked by a transition toward street protest by teenagers, usually throwing rocks at security forces. There is now also widespread, albeit regional sympathy to different militant groups. 

Following the presentation there was a question-answer period where Dr. Behera discussed topics ranging from India’s security posture toward Kashmir to media bias and perception of the conflict.

Short bio of Dr Behera:

Navnita Chadha Behera is a Visiting Fulbright Fellow at the Sigur Centre for Asian Studies at the George Washington University, Washington DC and, a Professor of International Relations at the Department of Political Science, University of Delhi. She is also Vice-President of the International Studies Association (2019-2020) and an Honorary Director of Institute for Research on India and International Studies. Prof. Behera’s book on Demystifying Kashmir (Brookings Press, 2006) and State, Identity and Violence: Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh (Manohar, 2002) have topped the non-fiction charts in India. Her research interests include International Relations Theory, Knowledge Systems and the Global South and International Politics of South Asia specially issues of War, Conflict & Political Violence, Gender Studies and the Kashmir Conflict.