14 th September- 40 days later in Soura

A woman showing the press the wounds the JKP inflicted on her, while she was returning from the medical institute.

The women of Soura, are as passionate as the boys about ‘azadi’

An older woman narrates the happenings of the past month.

A spokeswoman from the locality tells me, ‘mein protest mein kabhi nahin jaati, interview deti hu, lekin jati nahin hu.’

A young boy who became handicapped in 2018, after pellets hit his skull.

They thought I was an agent of the GOI. The people of the locality, were suspicious of me, on Friday- the day of the Jumma Namaz but on Saturday it was a whole different story. The day before, they saw many local photojournalists and assumed I was with one of them. For the first time, I saw them, the female photojournalists of the Valley. Two of them, accompanied by a male photographer and a photojournalist from some part of India, pretending to be Kashmiri. When I was introduced to her, I did tell her it was obvious she wasn’t from there but she totally denied it!

These tactics make it hard for people to trust someone who is there all alone. My gaffer had promised to only drop and pick me up, from Soura. ‘Mein nahin ja sakta, they will pick me up and send me to some jail, in another part of India! I hope you understand?’ Of course I did. Hummare peeche koi rone wallah nahin he, other people have families that would be devastated. With hardly any trasportation running in this part of town, with no mobile connectivity and with no one in my family knowing that I was entering this place, I was by myself, shitting bricks in my pants, in a locality where neither the JKP nor the Army could enter, so I did what I do best, just say it like it is. ‘ I am not Kashmiri and do not mistake me for being Muslim, just because of my name. I don’t want you to feel I entered your houses, by telling you all a lie!’ The truth mostly works like a charm in Kashmir, trying lying to them and you are jacked, for sure. I am glad I did because the female photojournalists went around announcing to all and sundry that I wasn’t with them and I wasn’t Kashmiri, which ultimately lead to a sort of friendly interrogation by the locals- my ids were checked, they wanted to see my father’s photograph on my phone to make sure my Aadhar card was genuine, I was constantly accompanied by these two adorable girls, who took me all around but I had a gnawing suspicion that they had been asked to keep an eye on the stranger.

Whatever, it was, I told the truth, so I hung around practically the whole day. A boy had been caught, by the JKP, the previous day, from the protest . This was while I was interviewing someone in another corner of the locality, on Friday. Apparently, his sister went to the police station to check on him and she too was beaten up and had been detained. To protest against that, the women went to the Soura Medical Institute on the 14th. I was there while, they stopped people and told them their woes. Ultimately, three army men came to beat them up as I hurriedly went, hid my camera and sat in the corner with the patients. If any armed personnel would have seen me entering or exiting Soura, my cameras or chips would have been ceased. The girls ran back and some got hurt.

After twenty minutes, I snuck back into the locality. I interviewed people, hung around in the park and was invited over for lunch by plenty of women, which I politely declined. This was the Kashmir, I was used to, these were the people I was used to ( kind and hospitable) not the one’s who had been giving me dirty looks on the roads since the abrogation. Ultimately I went for tea, with the local girl who had chosen to accompany me. Her family was really hospitable and kind, feeding me lots, while they warned her to be careful about what she tells me.

I left a little later, than the time assigned by my gaffer. The girls still by my side, ‘Didi we want to make sure, you are safe!’ ( or what they didn’t say- we want to know who brought you here). People hung around in front of their shops, while I walked past, the shutters down, chatting about the terrible events of the day. ‘Now they will beat up our women, too!’ they discussed. There seemed to be more barricades by the end of the same day and a lot more boys hung around at the unofficial posts, protecting their locality and their women!

13.9.19- Soura

Protest in Soura, Kashmir on the 13th of September against the Abrogation of article 370.

The life of Kashmiris, ever since the government abrogated the article

‘We will get caught and booked, just because we live in Soura. It doesn’t matter whether we do something or not!’- Protestor at the rally

Women and the children come out to protest, in this locality.

The womenfolk gather around to check out the tear gas shells, which are being shown to me.

Silent observers of the Kashmir Clampdown.

‘We need to protect our locality, as the armed forces can hurt our women and children, if they enter this space!’- Boy, posing in front of the barricade created to keep the Army/JKP out

While I was shooting the barricade, pellets were fired at the protestors (stone pelters). Some of them were rushed back with injuries.

Boy being treated in the locality, for pellet injuries as going to the hospital would lead to being caught by the authorities.

Eid in Kashmir

www.facebook.com/598600680197738/posts/2488338081223979

Kashmir Update

The people of Kargil are protesting the move to turn Ladakh into a UT

Ladakhi student at the stand with Jammu and Kashmir, protest yesterday.

 

 

Brinda Karat at the protest against the abolition of Article 370.

Shehla Rashid Shora at the same protest, giving an interview to the press.

 

On the fourth day of the Kashmir lockdown, Ghulam Nabi Azad was stopped at Srinagar Airport and sent back. Prime minister Modi , reassured people in his address to the nation that the Union territory status, is temporary and the locals would be allowed to celebrate Eid. Kashmiris remain cut off from each other, as well as the rest of the world. News of hundreds injured and six dead, somehow manages to reach the mainstream media. A number of separatists are said to have been shifted out of the Valley, while Kashmiri diaspora organises protests in London and Germany. Nitasha Kaul, an eminent Pandit, speaks to the international media against the abrogation of Provisions of article 370. Kashmir is said to be the most dangerous place in the world at the moment and tomorrow I will be stepping into it. I’m assuming this is my last post, till, (if) I return. Godspeed.

The 53rd Day-Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea

a 100 pieces of me

53rd day in Kashmir.

 

Pakistan slogans in Kashmir 2016

53rd day on the Kadals.

 

Calling the CRPF for engagement, Kashmir Unrest 2016

Calling the CRPF for engagement.

 

The older children try to entice the CRFP, while P.K. watches them. P.K is a 5 year old boy, who engages in this activity because he wants 'freedom'. Ask him what his name is and he says 'Mera naan Burhan he.'

The older children try to entice the CRFP, while P.K. watches them. P.K is a 5 year old boy, who engages in this activity because he wants ‘freedom’. Ask him what his name is and he says ‘Mera naam Burhan he.’

 

53rd day of Unrest in Kashmir

53rd day on the Kadal.

 

Saadiya Kochar

53rd Day of Unrest in Kashmir.

 

a 100 pieces of me

The forces make their way back to the area.

 

Saadiya Kochar

A boy checks on the lane behind me to ensure, I don’t get hurt.

 

53rd day of unrest in Kashmir

Removing the Blockage

 

Pellet guns kashmir

The Chase

 

Pellet injuries

The Search

 

Kashmir 2016

An older man takes me to his house to show me the wreckage after a nocturnal search. Damaged windows, appliances and a stench so terrible, that from the moment i stepped in, I had a hard time controlling the cough.

 

saadiya kochar, pellet guns kashmir

‘Aa maar hume pellet’, yell the boys, while the one with an already existing injury, advances forward.

 

a 100 pieces of me

Kaini Kadal-‘Non-lethal’ methods of crowd control. While the boys yell out ‘kalia, kokur-ch%#dh’ as insults, the armed personnel retort with ‘CRPF ki aulado’.

 

Saadiya Kochar

‘Tu police walli he’, asks this boy, incredibly agitated by me. ‘Na’. ‘Phir itna jigra kaise he?’

 

Retreating the boys run inside the smaller lanes and the armed personnel begin pelting stones.

Retreating the boys run inside the smaller lanes and the armed personnel begin pelting stones.

A couple of boys move towards the Karan Nagar side.

A couple of boys move towards the Karan Nagar side.

 

Karan Nagar

Stone Pelting in Karan Nagar

 

Habba kadal stone pelting

After the crowd has dispersed, on their evening rounds the JK police pelts stones on a house. A girl screams from the adjoining house,’ Ma’am when you go back, please tell them we are not terrorists but freedom fighters, like Gandhiji.’

 

After spending an entire day, watching what they called 'chua-billi ka khel', I head back. As I do, the armed personnel try to remove the blockage.

After spending an entire day, watching what they called ‘chua-billi ka khel’, I head back. As I do, the armed personnel try to remove the blockage.

‘It has happened and it goes on happening and it will happen again if nothing happens to stop it.

The innocent know nothing because they are too innocent.

The poor do not notice because they are too poor.

And the rich do not notice because they are too rich.

The stupid shrug their shoulders because they are too stupid.

And the clever shrug their shoulders because they are too clever.

The young do not care because they are too young.

And the old do not care because they are too old.

That is why nothing happens to stop it.

And that is why it has happened and goes on happening and will happen again.-Erich Fried.

 

Ji khabar aee he…pathrav ho raha he Keni Kadal me,’ says the voice on the phone. It’s 10 a.m on the 30th of August, the 53rd day of Unrest and I have decided to miss my flight. The government has lifted the curfew but the shops are shut and according to the calendar the women are supposed to gather at the crossings.
Though, there  are autos on the road, not a single one is willing to take me there. A little further away from the Police station, a ‘kani jung’, has been dispersed and the CRPF are searching for the protestors. I wait a while and then ask a passerby how to get to Kaini Kadal. He’s kind enough to walk with me. ‘Aap akele na ghumme yahaan. Aadmi ke saath chale. Haalat kharaab he,’ he says concerned about my well-being. ‘Aadmi kyaa karega? ‘, I ask him. ‘You could get lost, it’s best to be with a man who can guide you. I will take you till there but be careful.’ We walk for a bit, people ask him who I am and where he’s taking me. ‘She’s just a lost tourist’, he replies in spite of knowing, otherwise.
We reach the area, which is close to Habba Kadal and Karan Nagar. As we reach the bridge, he stops next to a few boys and says, ‘Ye aa gayaa aap ka Kaini Kadal. Khudda Hafiz.’ Since there faces aren’t covered, it takes me a minute to realise that I’m standing in between the protestors.’Aap uss taraf jao. Photo nahin kheechna, yahaan se,’ says a ten-year old boy. I walk across the road towards the CRPF. Now I’m on the Habba Kadal, side and there seems to be an entire battalion there-rakshak cars, police vehicles, Jk Police and the CRPF. ‘So many for a handful of children’, I think to myself. I walk around and wait…I wait and wait. It’s around 11.30 in the morning. The ex assistant calls to ask if I’ve found my way and to call as soon as I reach the hotel. The forces ask me where I am from. ‘Delhi’. ‘ Where is the rest of your team?’, they ask. ‘ I’m alone.’ ‘Darti nahin ho, kyaa?‘ they ask in disbelief.  ‘Kyun aap nahin darte?’,  is my only retort to the silly question. Everyone feels scared, whether they admit it or not!
I sit down on the steps of one of the closed shops. A middle aged Kashmiri man joins me. ‘ Chotti yahaan mat beth. Humare ghar chal. Chai pi.’ Kashmiri hospitality at its best. I politely decline the offer. After the basic introductions, we sit around chatting about the state of affairs. ‘Tu jis cheez ki wait kar rahi he, voh jaise he ye gadiyaan jangee tabhi hogi.’, he informs me about the impending circumstances. A family cautiouly steps out from the house, opposite to where I have unceremoniouly parked myself. ‘ Please come to our house, incase you need anything. Bathroom, jana hoga to, aa jana. Just because the circumstances are such doesn’t mean we have forgotten how to take care of our guests.’
 Slowly the Rakshak cars and seventy percent of the troops head back to the camp for lunch. As they make their way back, one asks me to come along. ‘ Madam, chalie khaana khaeye.’ I decline the offer, though in retrospect I think it would have been an experience breaking bread with the men, who spend their lives trying to protect us.
 If you’ve never been to Kashmir, you can’t imagine what a sight a woman wearing cameras around her neck, sitting alone on the steps of downtown is. By the time the Zuhar Namaaz is over and the troops have left, it has been mentioned in the Masjid and half of the locality comes to check me out. I meet all kinds-the kind ones, the hospitable ones, the agitated ones, the curious ones and the suspecting ones and I am truly intimidated.
In between all this, I am handed a cup of tea and roti by the family. The usual questions  ‘Where? Why? How? Saadiya what?’ The standard reply- ‘Kochar..I’m  not Muslim. I’m a Sardarni!’. Nowhere, do I  ascertain my Sikhi more than in Kashmir only due to the unfair advantage my first name grants me. A loudmouth starts to articulate his displeasure with me in English and some of the sceptics cheer at his fluency.  ‘I don’t appreciate your tone’, is all I say when he begins to ask me for my I.D. ‘Don’t stammer…don’t stammer!’ I tell myself. Right on cue, an older gentleman appears and asks me to come to his house. ‘Kal se press valon ko phone kar raha hu. Koi nahin aaya.‘ Thankfully, the ex assistant calls. ‘Someone wants to take me to their house. I’m going, ‘ I tell him. ‘Let me speak to them’, he says panicking. ‘ Please take care of her,’ he tells the boy who escorts me. ‘Don’t worry she is our sister,’he replies.
Off I go, through the lanes with a small group into a house. As soon as I enter I can’t stop coughing. There are broken appliances and clothes on the floor. ‘They came to search for our sons, saying they are pelting stones. When they couldn’t find them, they broke everything. I don’the know why the SHO is targeting  just my family. The Jk Police tortures us more than the CRPF,’he claims. A few short interviews later there’s a panic.  ‘Police..police!’ yells someone outside and a member of the group runs down with my bag. I run after him but I am blocked. Within a few minutes, my bag is returned and there are no cops.
I am escorted back to the Kadal ( bridge)  where I wait in anticipation. A five year old boy in a green shirt, glides towards it and starts to block the road. ‘Wo aa gaya P.K. Iska bhai 10 saal ka he aur jail me he. Iss ko bhi le ke gaye the station. Chaud diya,’ an adolescent informs me. ‘Ask him what his name is?’ I call P.K and ask him what his name is. ‘Mera naam Burhan he!’, he says. ‘Humare naam roshan karega!’, smiles the adolescent proudly.
And then suddenly everything starts moving at a crazy pace. They appear from nowhere…5 year old..10 year old.. .15 year old…20 year old boys. They all seem unfamiliar. ‘Jo jahaan ka hota voh wahan par nahin karta, protest’. They block the roads and then the younger ones run across the bridge to entice the CRPF and sure enough they appear. Fully covered in front of fearless, abusive children.
There are various groups divided between Habba Kadal, Kaini Kadal and Karan Nagar-each only a kilometer away from one another. I glide between both the Locals and the armed personnel..arousing the suspicion of both. By the end of the day, the boys have had enough of me. One of them sends me off to sit with the ladies under the bridge. They fuss over me. Thankfully my phone doesn’t quit ringing and I hand it to them to answer and inform people of my whereabouts. It’s just a precautionary measure.
The boy in the red mask appears without his mask. He enquiries from the ladies (in Kashmiri) if I have been taking pictures from that particular spot…have I been asking them any questions about the boys. They reply to the negative. Then he begins to question me…ultimately he gets agitated. ‘Tu police walli he kyaa?’ I nod. ‘To phir itna jigara kese he?’ ‘Sardar hu iss liye!’ But he’s unconvinced. My meekness doesn’t help so I do what I do best- Behave like a drama queen- ‘Ye le mere I’d.  Mere ghar ka pata he, agar police walli nikli ghar me aa ke maryo mujhe.’ That’s too much for him to hear. ‘Do you think I want to hurt you? Nobody will say anything to you but go away now. Stop taking pictures. Enough.’ Actually, after spending a day there, I have had my fill!

The March Against AFSPA

March at Jantar Mantar

Repeal AFSPA march at Jantar Mantar

 

IMG_6474

A young Manipuri girl wearing a t-shirt in support of Irom Sharmila, an activist who went on a hunger strike in Nov 2000 as a means of protest.

 

IMG_6463

A young student holding a painting of the ‘Iron Lady Of Manipur’. Mengoubi (fair one) as she is also known, has been released and re-arrested many times. She was arrested from Jantar Mantar in 2006.

AFSPA- Even a teenager in a Kashmir knows what AFSPA stands for. The Armed Forces Special Power Act meant nothing to this Dilli ka Girl. But the past few years that I’ve spent in Kashmir have made a dent on my psyche.  I am not  a supporter of the Kashmiri’s struggle for independence or of the Indian States instance on holding on to it. I claim myself a wanderer, a kind of observer; just reflecting. So this is me reflecting. How would we feel if our houses were searched without  warrants, we were arrested without warrants and once in a while our loved ones would just disappear- without us knowing whether they were dead or alive? Are we going to wish away  the collective anger of the people of Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Tripura and Kashmir; in the hope that it will have no repercussions on our coming generations?

 

A march was organised at  Jantar Mantar today, against AFSPA. A number of organisations  like-  Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign, AIPWA, DSF, The Voices against 377 etc came together to mobilize the civil society. The pictures are from the March.

 

 

One of the few Kashmiri youth at the march. This is what he had to say to me-''You people just want our resources our land but not us.''

One of the few Kashmiri youth at the march. This is what he had to say to me-”You people just want our resources and our land but not us!”

 

 

 

Deepti Sharma from The Voices Against 377, has been supporting the cause since 2000.

Deepti Sharma from-The Voices Against 377, has been supporting the cause, since 2000.

Protesters at the March

Protesters at the March