Love in the time of occupation

Reveries, longing, and intoxication in Kashmir

by Saiba Varma

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At a drug rehabilitation clinic in Indian-occupied Kashmir, patients were subjected to a range of biomedical and penitentiary techniques. These techniques included group therapy sessions in which substance users performed narratives of their recovery—a practice that made visible their gratitude to the police, which oversaw the clinic and which, as an arm of the Indian military, many view as an illegal occupying force. While patients publicly pledged to remain sober and technically complied with the clinic’s demands, they privately demonstrated ongoing commitments to nasha (intoxication), which places substance use, romantic love, and the search for divine unity in Sufism on the same phenomenological register. Through nasha, patients defied biomedical injunctions to forget their pasts and recuperated intoxication as a worthwhile experience.