The New ‘Normal’ Kashmir: A Glimpse Through Images from Anchaar
Girls in Anchaar protesting against the government on 27 September.
Girls in Anchaar protesting against the government on 27 September.(Photo: Avani Rai)

The New ‘Normal’ Kashmir: A Glimpse Through Images from Anchaar

(This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

I have been working in Kashmir for the last four to five years, photographing and documenting Kashmiris, and listening to their stories. The Indian government has always tried to project an image of "normalcy" in Kashmir. We see stories about tourists visiting Kashmir, Kashmiris topping the civil services, and Kashmiri children excelling in national competitions and sports. But, nothing was normal about life in Kashmir, even before the siege that began on 5 August 2019. Suffering and loss is an everyday reality in the region.

Today, things are worse, as the government has dismantled the state government of Jammu and Kashmir, and put 8 million Kashmiris under a communication lockdown. To claim things are normal, as so many continue to say, would be far from the truth. Many consider this a sharp assault on the very dignity of the Kashmiri people.

The people there are desperate and resilient. Desperate because they are blocked off from the world and suffering violence in the form of raids, curfew and torture; resilient because they fear the world will turn away, and so they are taking their destiny into their own hands.

I visited the suburb of Anchaar on the outskirts of Srinagar from 25 September through 27 September. The people there are desperate and resilient. Desperate because they are blocked off from the world and suffering violence in the form of raids, curfew and torture; resilient because they fear the world will turn away, and so they are taking their destiny into their own hands.

Neighbourhoods are building makeshift barricades called nakas to protect themselves from government forces. Communities are digging deep trenches to stop government vehicles from encroaching on their homes. And in the rare case curfew is lifted, as it was for a time when I visited because of the UN General Assembly Meeting, Kashmiris are taking to the streets to demand azadi.

Long before 5 August, Kashmiris yearned for a life of dignity, and normalcy if you will, sentiments they feel even more acutely today.

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    Planes fly to Kashmir, but there is hardly a soul in sight. This is a picture of a Spice Jet Mumbai -Srinagar flight on 24 September.
    Planes fly to Kashmir, but there is hardly a soul in sight. This is a picture of a Spice Jet Mumbai -Srinagar flight on 24 September.(Photo: Avani Rai)
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    A woman mourns her son. He was arrested after the recent siege and can be detained without charge or trial for up to two years under the Public Safety Act.
    A woman mourns her son. He was arrested after the recent siege and can be detained without charge or trial for up to two years under the Public Safety Act.(Photo: Avani Rai)
  • 09
    Indian media describes the situation in Kashmir as “normal.” The empty and barren streets on 25 September show otherwise.
    Indian media describes the situation in Kashmir as “normal.” The empty and barren streets on 25 September show otherwise.(Photo: Avani Rai)
  • 08
    Neighborhoods, like Anchar, fortify themselves with Nakas, barricades made of concertina, wire mesh, logs, pipes, and asbestos sheets. Some see Pakistan as their guardian. Photo taken on the night of 26 September.
    Neighborhoods, like Anchar, fortify themselves with Nakas, barricades made of concertina, wire mesh, logs, pipes, and asbestos sheets. Some see Pakistan as their guardian. Photo taken on the night of 26 September.(Photo: Avani Rai)
  • 07
    Boys guard the <i>nakas</i>, day and night.
    Boys guard the nakas, day and night.(Photo: Avani Rai)
  • 06
    Residents build deep trenches in the ground to prevent military vehicles from getting too close to their homes. A man stands guard on 26 September.
    Residents build deep trenches in the ground to prevent military vehicles from getting too close to their homes. A man stands guard on 26 September.(Photo: Avani Rai)
  • 05
    Protesters wear masks when they take to the streets as drones hover above on 27 September. Those who are identified risk immediate arrest and detention.
    Protesters wear masks when they take to the streets as drones hover above on 27 September. Those who are identified risk immediate arrest and detention.(Photo: Avani Rai)
  • 04
    Girls and women of all ages join in protest on 27 September.
    Girls and women of all ages join in protest on 27 September.(Photo: Avani Rai)
  • 03
    Girls and women in Anchaar in protest on 27 September.
    Girls and women in Anchaar in protest on 27 September.(Photo: Avani Rai)
  • 02
    Schools in Kashmir are open only four months of the year. This year they may not open at all.
    Schools in Kashmir are open only four months of the year. This year they may not open at all.(Photo: Avani Rai)
  • 01
    A girl looks out the window, hoping tomorrow will be better than today.
    A girl looks out the window, hoping tomorrow will be better than today.(Photo: Avani Rai)
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Also Read : Faces, Guns, Pellets: Kashmir through the Eyes of a Photographer

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