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.
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.