‘Born Amid Curfew’: Impact of Conflict on Kashmiri Minds & Art

Four Kashmiri artists on the impact of conflict on their minds and how they are unable to detach from it.

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Video Editor: Ashutosh Bhardwaj
Producer: Zijah Sherwani

Being born at a time when guns and encounters are a common sight has a devastating impact on a child’s mind. Frequent images of broken bodies, blinded men and dead bodies is ought to mess up a childhood.

The Valley is full of people who use art as a tool to resist. Kashmir history is blotted with oppression and violation that dates back to 1589 AD when Kashmir lost its sovereignty to Mughals. Since then, the people of Kashmir have been subjected to all sorts of atrocities at the hands of different rulers.

Such is the effect of the conflict that most of the artists paint painful renditions of the war whenever they paint or writers invent verses reeking of pain and loss.

Tabish Haider, Painter

Having started painting for fun from a very young age, Tabish’s art transformed growing up.
Having started painting for fun from a very young age, Tabish’s art transformed growing up.
(Photo: @tabishaider.gazi/Instagram)

This 22-year-old Kashmiri artist finds it difficult to paint anything but conflict. He believes that being born in a conflict-torn zone has had an influence on his art.

One of Tabish’s famous paintings.
One of Tabish’s famous paintings.
(Photo: @tabishaider.gazi/Instagram)

A man with bare flesh sits against a wall of an ancient house while outside people flee the armed forces. This is one of the poignant artworks of Tabish that speaks of the situation in Kashmir.

“I tried to run away from it but it has kept ambushing me back. And now, I have stopped the denial and I live with the truth. It helps me generate hope for normalcy and a better tomorrow. And, I hope one day, I will paint a happy Kashmir.”
Tabish Haider, Painter
  • 01/06
    Tabish also makes cartoons for Kashmiri newspaper ‘Kashmir Pen’@tabishaider.gazi/Instagram
    Tabish also makes cartoons for Kashmiri newspaper ‘Kashmir Pen’
  • 02/06
    Tabish also makes cartoons for Kashmiri newspaper ‘Kashmir Pen’@tabishaider.gazi/Instagram
    Tabish also makes cartoons for Kashmiri newspaper ‘Kashmir Pen’
  • 03/06
    Tabish also makes cartoons for Kashmiri newspaper ‘Kashmir Pen’@tabishaider.gazi/Instagram
    Tabish also makes cartoons for Kashmiri newspaper ‘Kashmir Pen’
  • 04/06
    Tabish also makes cartoons for Kashmiri newspaper ‘Kashmir Pen’@tabishaider.gazi/Instagram
    Tabish also makes cartoons for Kashmiri newspaper ‘Kashmir Pen’
  • 05/06
    Tabish also makes cartoons for Kashmiri newspaper ‘Kashmir Pen’@tabishaider.gazi/Instagram
    Tabish also makes cartoons for Kashmiri newspaper ‘Kashmir Pen’
  • 06/06
    Tabish also makes cartoons for Kashmiri newspaper ‘Kashmir Pen’@tabishaider.gazi/Instagram
    Tabish also makes cartoons for Kashmiri newspaper ‘Kashmir Pen’

Such art has become an essential means of venting one’s anger as there are strict measures taken to muffle the voices of resistance. Even if they try, they find it impossible to detach from the fabric of conflict.

Zeeshan Jaipuri, Poet

Zeeshan performing at a mushaira.
Zeeshan performing at a mushaira.
(Photo: @zeeshan_jaipuri/Instagram)

Grandson of Urdu poet Syed Akbar Jaipuri, influenced by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Zeeshan is passionate about taking his poetry to the streets, hoping for a social reform.
Zeeshan reflects the interest of Kashmiri youth through his Urdu nazms and poems.

“The bloodshed happening in my home has become a part of me. I tried to run from it but all in vain. I did not choose to become a resistance poet but the circumstances are such that my pen oozes nothing but couplets of pain.”
Zeeshan Jaipuri, Poet

Two years back, Zeeshan wrote a ghazal (ode) that he says is an evidence of how he tried to run away from the haunting memories of the conflict but has failed to do so.

“Na toh aankhon se, na uss dil se gila rehta hai
Mere seene ka har ek chaakh sila rehta hai,
Gair ki bazm mei jaakar gabrana mat
Mera darwaza meri jaan khula rehta hai”

Translation: I cannot rear complaints against her eyes, none against my poor heart. For every slit of my soul, my love, masterfully remains darned forever. I tell you, go sleep in the house of strangers and return silently if you wish for my door shall forever stay waiting for you.

Khursheed Mushtaq Ali, Theatre & Visual Artist

Khursheed narrates the tales of Kashmir through his public performances.
Khursheed narrates the tales of Kashmir through his public performances.
(Photo: @bhand_artist\Instagram)

Khursheed Mushtaq Ali was born on a curfew night in the year 1993. At the time, Kashmir was going through one of the worst political turmoils. His work speaks of the distressing times he witnessed back home and how the haunting shadows of the conflict creep into his artwork.

“I grew up in a conflict-ridden place, where bloodshed and death is a common spectacle. The uncertainty is palpable and you cannot predict what might happen to you in the next moment. I give life to this uncertainty through my work and it comes naturally.”
Khursheed Mushtaq Ali, Artist

His family is associated with a traditional folk theatre in Kashmir, ‘Bhand Pather’, a form of satirical drama based on famous legends. Passed on through his family to him, Khurshid now uses theatrical performances to narrate the woeful tales of his homeland, Kashmir.

  • 01/07
    Khurshid studied art in Kashmir and started performing when he joined Ambedkar University in Delhi for his masters.@bhand_artist/Instagram
    Khurshid studied art in Kashmir and started performing when he joined Ambedkar University in Delhi for his masters.
  • 02/07
    Khurshid studied art in Kashmir and started performing when he joined Ambedkar University in Delhi for his masters.@bhand_artist/Instagram
    Khurshid studied art in Kashmir and started performing when he joined Ambedkar University in Delhi for his masters.
  • 03/07
    ‘Testing a site which is meant to promote Respected Normalcy.’@bhand_artist/Instagram
    ‘Testing a site which is meant to promote Respected Normalcy.’
  • 04/07
    ‘Testing a site which is meant to promote Respected Normalcy.’@bhand_artist/Instagram
    ‘Testing a site which is meant to promote Respected Normalcy.’
  • 05/07
    ‘Testing a site which is meant to promote Respected Normalcy.’@bhand_artist/Instagram
    ‘Testing a site which is meant to promote Respected Normalcy.’
  • 06/07
    ‘Who am I to remove clothes’@bhand_artist/Instagram
    ‘Who am I to remove clothes’
  • 07/07
    ‘Who am I to remove clothes’@bhand_artist/Instagram
    ‘Who am I to remove clothes’

Khytul Abyad, Visual Artist

Another Kashmiri artist, Khytul Abyad, calls her work “visual documentation of the toll of conflict on human life”. She documents turmoil and its effect on the people around her.

Khtytul started making art about the conflict during 2016’s six months of curfew after the killing of Burhan Wani.
Khtytul started making art about the conflict during 2016’s six months of curfew after the killing of Burhan Wani.
(Photo: @Khyyyhk/Instagram/Khytul Abyad
“Conflict has had a huge impact on my work but it happened gradually. As my understanding of the situation grew, I understood that the ‘normal’ being fed to us was not so normal after all. I have not been able to detach myself from the situation in my homeland, that is why it’s in my drawings and writings. The truth is that we are trying to heal, only here healing takes a long time, or worse, it never happens.”
Khytul Abyad, Visual Artist
  • 01/02
    This is the graffiti, Khytul painted near her home amid the curfew.@khyyyhk/Instagram
    This is the graffiti, Khytul painted near her home amid the curfew.
  • 02/02
    She then drew a painting of the same.@khyyyhk/Instagram
    She then drew a painting of the same.

Her drawing of three girls playing jump rope made up of a barbed wire clearly shows the disturbing reality of Kashmir, as seen by Khytul while growing up.

Conflict Births Art

Zoya Mir, Counselling Psychologist, says exposure to traumatic events occurring around your vicinity can cause mental health issues. She further explains that to cope with trauma, people may resort to various mediums such as drawing, painting, sculpting through which they can project, analyse and observe their feelings.

“People living in a conflict area are bound to experience trauma which represses their feelings. So, without even realising, they are burdening their minds with unresolved feelings. If we notice free drawings of young ones, in most of the cases, it will be something related to the conflict. Such is the impact of these traumatic experiences.”
Zoya Mir, Psychologist
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