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

Lockdown in Kashmir

Protests against the revocation of article 370, were organised in New Delhi by the Left, on the 5th of August. Article 370 was sprung on the people, revoked by the BJP government, just the way demonisation was unceremoniously sprung on the whole of India. This decision taken in haste has already lead to deaths in the Valley.
From unofficial sources, news is spreading ( since all official means have been shut down) that the Rashtriya Rifles are present on the streets of Kashmir. JKP can’t be seen anywhere. Rumour has it, that in Noorbagh area people tried to break the curfew. The locals only became aware of the revocation, when the announcement was made in certain masjids. Cable, mobile, even landlines are snagged. A doctor has confirmed three to four deaths and apparently there is stone pelting taking place, in certain parts.
Meanwhile, protests take place in different parts of the world against the revocation. In the University of Dhaka, the students carried on a protest, a US based Muslim organisation is going to organise a protest, too. Whereas Pakistan has tried to get the support of Turkey and Malaysia. Even in India, various organisations are dissenting against the move.
On the flip side, news is filtering in that most people in Ladakh, have welcomed the move to bifurcate the state and turn Ladakh into a Ut According to them- Ladakh was being given step motherly treatment. The funds that were supposed to be given to Ladakh, were being given to Kashmir. Educational institutes, funds, jobs were being given to Jammu and Kashmir and basically development would take place after Ladakh, would be totally integrated into India.

Kashmir Under Siege- Revocation of Article 370 and 35A

www.facebook.com/a100reflections/videos/78053596234176

In July when I visited Gurez, there was something off about the way people were speaking. The them versus us, drawing room conversation that one tries to not get agitated by, in Delhi, I was suddenly hearing in what I thought was the Kashmir Valley. Up until now, it was but I’ve been replaying that over and over in my head today and now I have my doubts. ‘Madam hum Kashmiri nahin he! Madam Kashmirio se hum ache he. Madam humari bhasha alag he! Madam hum Hindustani he!’ The Shina speaking Dards of Gurez told me all this. I assumed that because the person I banged into was a Bhakt, a member of the BJP, that’s the reason, I was hearing all this. ‘Humme Ladakh ke saath aane chahiye!’ I discarded as just regular conversation, as I do all the hate mongering that comes out of the mouths of some relatives based in Jammu.

The past week, we all knew something terrible was going to happen- the revocation of the articles was an agenda, we all suspected that would happen but the downgrading of a state to, make it into a UT, has taken everybody by surprise. But we can trust the Modi-Shah duo, drunk in their supreme power, to not treat Kashmiris like people. After all they didn’t spare their own Hindu brethren during demonitisation, or like many of us suspect, earlier this year, too!

So while the rest of India screams, ‘Hail Hitler!’, the few of us in the crowd, just hang our heads, yet again, in shame, For going back on India’s word by not including or even consulting the Kashmiris, for making a mockery of democracy and most of all for spreading fear amongst the people of Kashmir, the yatries, the casual workers and the press. ‘Hindustan Zindabad’ they yell deliriously, while a four year old, sits locked up in her house in Kashmir, wondering when she will go to school? where should she play and a few months into the lockdown what should she eat?

Women’s day 2019

A lot has happened over the past month. On the 14th of February 2019, as we are all aware, a convoy carrying CRPF personnel was attacked by a Fidayen. This resulted in the death of more than forty men of the Central Reserve Police Force. The attack was condemned by Indians, the International media and the Kashmiris. The Pulwama attack, led to the Balakot attack in Pakistan. The series of events which took place after that, had all of us glued to our television sets for hours, waiting for Abhinanadan to cross the Wagah Border.

All this while on this blog one posted nothing. ‘Zip it if you have to come here and cover anything’, I was told. Unfortunately, after the series of events, one has not been able to drive to Srinagar by one’s self. This year on women’s day, we dedicate the entire month to the Kashmiri women and to the women who ask for peace.

At the Aath March Saath March, today, a reporter said to Memuna from AIDWA, ‘don’t tell me about war tell me about women’s issues!’. To which she retorted, ‘Do you think war is not a woman’s issue?’. I stood there nodding my head thinking about the widows of the jawans, their mothers and their daughters. I also stood there thinking about the Kashmiri mother’s whose children have been attacked, thrown out of their paying guest accommodations in the middle of the night and had to return to the Valley, not knowing what the future holds for them.

Appeasement is what most would term my attitude towards Kashmiris. I would like to think of it as empathy. One’s never agreed with many things that the Kashmiri state but one’s also vehemently opposed the atrocities that are carried on in Kashmir. To not see those and stand against those, would make me inhuman. To not be moved by the plight of a mother or a sister, whose son or brother has been missing for decades, detained without any charges for years, blinded and worse tortured and killed, isn’t possible for me. If that makes anyone assume is because of a Kashmiri man, so be it! If that makes me anti national, so be it!

Before we go ahead and isolate every single Kashmiri, leaving them with no choices, let’s give compassion a chance. Before we accuse them of everything, let’s not forget for a minute that Kashmir is not just a state, the conflict makes it one of the most profitable businesses in the world and everybody other than mother who produces the child who looses his life, fighting from this side or that, has something to gain!