The aforementioned findings were indeed germane to the outlined aims of the scoping study to discern all attributing factors to ruby mining. However, certain contextual realities take precedence in contriving a (re)imagined understanding of the nuanced ‘normality’ that inherently underpins the mining culture of Kashmir’s rubies. Firstly, the absolute absence of any repercussions of being in propinquity to an active international conflict – the struggle for Kashmir’s self-determination – especially keeping in view the proximity of ruby mines to the Line of Control (LoC). Moreover, the lack of indulgence of locals to utilize the treasure trove to fuel the armed struggle across the LoC, as ‘normally’ seen in cases with similitude; occurrence of a lootable and highly valued commodity to a kinetically charged conflict zone. Additionally, the blatant absence of criminogenic factors redirected the assumed and ‘normally’ evidenced understanding associated with the lootability of gemstones.
This factor cascaded into another finding ‘normally’ identified with gemstone mining; the intangible association that local communities experience in view of their close bearing with the resource. In case of Kashmir’s rubies, the locals can view the mine(s) at all times and yet, they are void of any gripping realization of its value or possess any (collective) desire to demand for an increased participation in its operations or resultant developmental outcomes. Concurrently, the Domailisshowed increased affinity towards their farming and agricultural produce; consisting of primarily potatoes, wild herbs and livestock. It was remarkable to witness their carefully forged and decided responsibilities towards their farming life – as ‘normally’ found in mining communities – but at the same time quite confounding to observe their gentle indifference towards the rubies which are exponentially more valued and remain at immediate sight. Adding to this assertion, the people of Domail inhabit the village as one large, extended family and represent a unique uniformity as ‘normally’ unseen; primarily, void of local power clashes. However, this uniformity does not translate into collective unity in view of the ruby mining culture as an integrated and conscious front.
The economic potential of the ruby mining seems remarkably faded when the distinct attributes of the mining culture form a considerably ‘abnormal’ mosaic of a livelihood that transcends normally held conventions. The explorative lens requires a redirection towards the contextual realities which evoke a fascinating rural setting that needs to (re)define the specificity mining cultures encompass while keeping the centrality of the resource (ruby) intact. However, assumptions dwelling with the notions of ‘normality’ – perceived or otherwise – possess the latency to form assertions on naive ties; yet, they can be fringed upon conceptions, especially based on mining communities blessed with a resource whose aura defies time, but more significant, on the resource’s mining culture – that defies normality.
The author is profoundly grateful for the research opportunity and supervision received from Dr. Muhammad Makki and also extends her thanks to Waseem Iftikhar and Aizah Azam for their assistance.
The author also gratefully acknowledges the financial support for the fieldwork received from the 'The Gemstone Knowledge Hub' at the University of Delaware USA.