Longing, Belonging and the Politics of Naming
The Case of the Khache
In Tibet, Muslim traders and subsequent settlers from Kashmir were called Khache. Over the years, this term has come to acquire multiple significations. By engaging with the complex history of the group and their eventual return to Kashmir, this paper tries to uncover these very significations and how the idea of Khache represents a coming together of the Himalayan region (Tibet, Nepal, Kashmir, Darjeeling, Kalimpong). In their multi-layered notion of belonging, there is a strong sense of attachment to the imagined Tibet, reflecting a harmoniously lived life, while further complexities emerge from their repatriation to the ancestral land of Kashmir. Referred to as Kashmiri Muslims (loosely, Khache) in Tibet, and now as Tibetan Muslims in Kashmir, the confusion in identity is as much linguistic as political. We should also note that regional prefixes such as ‘Tibetan’ or ‘Kashmiri’ don’t just fixate associations with regions, but also with regimes of power and powerful agents. As such, through this article, I am trying to argue for a geographically and politically neutral or at least less problematic term Khache. Finally, this paper is an ethnographic examination of how different representations and regional influences can be witnessed in everyday life performances for this group, and how these ultimately shape their sense of being. In the same vein, we will locate Islam emerging as a constant and source of justification to life's trials and tribulations – as often portrayed by the analogy to hijrat – the journey to save one's religion.
Copyright (c) 2018 Anisa Bhutia
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