‘Like a land of permanent sorrow’: A visiting Indian photographer documents life in Kashmir

India has deployed hundreds of thousands of troops to Kashmir, home to 8 million people, which ranks Kashmir as perhaps the world’s most militarized zone. On Aug. 5, 2019, India revoked the special status, or limited autonomy, granted under Article 370 of the Indian constitution to Jammu and Kashmir, and deployed more security forces to the Kashmir Valley. (Jayanta Roy)
We are living in extraordinary times. Much of the world is on lockdown because of the coronavirus sweeping across the globe. Many of us are now faced with an unfamiliar situation, having to deal with restrictions on our normal behavior. Large gatherings are now something to avoid. A lot of us are working from home, there are no sporting events taking place, and even the status of our political conventions here in the United States is uncertain.

We’re doing all this to minimize the risk of being affected by the virus. But for some people, restrictions on their actions is part of daily life, coronavirus or not. The people of Kashmir, for example, have been living with restrictions for decades.

Kashmir, a mountainous territory at the northernmost tip of the Indian subcontinent, has been disputed between India and Pakistan since 1947. The dispute has resulted in three wars between India and Pakistan, along with many armed skirmishes. This article by Claire Parker in The Washington Post gives a more comprehensive look at the history of the conflict over Kashmir and where it stands today. One of the results of the continuing conflict is that India has imposed restrictions on the inhabitants of Kashmir.

Indian photographer Jayanta Roy recently traveled to Kashmir to document the day-to-day realities of life there. Roy told In Sight that when he was documenting life in Kashmir, the spread of the coronavirus was not a big issue. However, Kashmiris are no strangers to lockdown conditions because they have been facing strong restrictions since Aug. 5, 2019, when the Indian government moved to scrap Article 370 of its constitution, which gave Kashmir some autonomous powers including the right to make its own laws.

Roy’s bleak, yet poetic, black and white photographs of daily life in Kashmir remind us that even in the best of times, some people in our world are living under dire circumstances — not because of a pandemic but as the result of political forces beyond their control. As conditions around the world continue to evolve because of the coronavirus, Roy says, “now I want people to remember that a large population is suffering from the same pain we are facing now, but for longer than us, much before the covid-19 outbreak, and their suffering is like a never-ending nightmare.”

A villager returns home after collecting wood to make charcoal, which can be sold in market to fuel kangri, a cheap and portable heat source used by Kashmiri people to stave off the cold in winter. Due to a lack of tourists, the rural economy has suffered badly. Many people have lost their savings and are surviving on local resources. (Jayanta Roy)
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Srinagar on a stormy day. (Jayanta Roy)
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Studies show that a large number of Kashmiri people are suffering mental health issues after being separated from loved ones as they also grapple with the uncertainty of the future. (Jayanta Roy)
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After more than three decades of violence, Kashmir feels like a land of permanent sorrow. (Jayanta Roy)
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A man pushes a scooter on a slushy road in Srinagar on a snowy day. (Jayanta Roy)
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Kashmir’s infrastructure is crumbling because of decades of instability. (Jayanta Roy)
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People ride in an overcrowded train between Srinagar and Banihal. They often make the trip to access a weak 2G Internet connection available in Banihal because Internet service has been cut in Srinagar since Aug. 5, 2019. (Jayanta Roy)
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A village in Kashmir’s Ganderbal district in peak winter. (Jayanta Roy)
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Mir helps his father catch fish in Kashmir’s Wular Lake. (Jayanta Roy)
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Schools in Indian-controlled Kashmir were closed Aug. 5, 2019, and they typically close for three months during the harsh winter. As a result, Kashmiri children have not seen a classroom for at least 200 days. (Jayanta Roy)
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The Jhelum River originates in the Kashmir Valley and flows between India and Pakistan. The Chenab River and other important waterways also originate in or flow through Kashmir. All are vital for the long-term water security of both India and Pakistan. This is one of the key factors behind the two countries’ conflict over Kashmir. (Jayanta Roy)
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Thousands of young activists are arrested and sent to prison outside Kashmir. Their families lose contact with them, sometimes not hearing from them for months. (Jayanta Roy)
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An Indian army helicopter roams the sky over Srinagar, capital of Indian-administered Kashmir. The region has been under a military crackdown since Aug. 5, 2019. (Jayanta Roy)
In Sight is The Washington Post’s photography blog for visual narrative. This platform showcases compelling and diverse imagery from staff members and freelance photographers, news agencies and archives. If you are interested in submitting a story to In Sight, please complete this form.