Understanding displacement and migration from violence affected Villages in Jammu and Kashmir: Anthropological Insights

The classical village studies in India have focused on ideas of caste, kinship, village as a social reality, with an emphasis on the sociological conditions of life, specifically the socio-cultural and economic aspects of a rural society. The sociological condition of people living in rural areas which have witnessed sustained periods of violence in settings like Jammu and Kashmir, Naxal affected parts of India, and the insurgency affected North-East has not been explored fully and calls for attention of scholars. This paper discusses the experiences of people with an emphasis on displacement from such rural areas- where protracted violence and conflict define everyday life. Some of the questions that need to be addressed include: How can we understand the social life of rural inhabitants whose physical and social setting is profoundly affected by the violence? What about the impacts of displacement, dislocation, exodus from one’s native areas affected by violence and conflict within or outside? What about the narratives of resilience, of coping, living together, holding each other’s hand, and of facing the violence collectively in a rural setting? These are pertinent questions in contemporary times when many rural areas are affected by violence and conflict. There is a need to re-examine the rural areas through a social anthropological lens to understand the disturbed social milieu. The questions this research poses are: do we need to alter the homeostatic model of Indian villages? Do we need a new search for the perspectives that will help us understand this social aspect of everyday rural life? The understanding of the village has to include the accounts of villages affected by violence and conflict and look beyond the perspectives and approaches of understanding caste and kinship. Drawing mainly from the first author’s notes of fieldwork conducted during 2001-2003 in few villages of the then State of Jammu and Kashmir, an attempt is made here in this paper to map the changes in both the physical landscape and social life of the village due to ‘living under threat’, migration and displacement of its inhabitants triggered by violence.