Telling the raw story of Kashmir

Of Forgetting and Memory


 Of Occupation and Resistance: Writings From  Kashmir is one such book, Edited by Fahad Shah, a young Kashmiri journalist, the anthology comprising a collection of the write-ups and reports by journalists, activists, artists etc tells the raw story of Kashmir. Coming from diverse backgrounds and professions, the authors offer a well-rounded perspective on the state from different vantage-points. And each experience between them illuminates the larger tragedy that is playing out in Kashmir, away from the world, from the mainland India and , what is tragic enough, overlooked also by the people of the state.

Fahad’s aim is bigger: for him the book is a memory project: “After years or decades, the generations that are yet come will need a medium through which they can know what happened to their ancestors,” Fahad writes in his preface to the anthology. It is this purpose that is taken forward by the photojournalist Showkat Nanda in his piece The Pain of Being Haunted by Memories. Or Crackdown in Natipora by Shahnaz Bashir.  Or Forgetting by the academic Mohammad Junaid.  Their memoirs followed by the rapper M C Kash’s The Life of a Rebel Artist or Uzma Falak’s Mausoleum of Memory and others are evocative of the horror of the nineties: security crackdowns where people were herded like cattle and subjected to humiliating identification parades, insults and torture. Or the wider arena of  gunfights, killings, deaths of loved ones. And for all of the young writers the loss of their childhood.

Shahnaz Bashir captures this beautifully in his piece. “For the identification parade, the people of Natipora were assembled in a plum orchard ——-my cousins had played in the orchard many times before. We would enjoy sitting high on the mossy branches of the plum trees for hours. We’d disappear in the dense foliage and marvel at the sunlight that would come winking through the  leaves. However, the day of crackdown was unlike all others”.

Or Mohammad Junaid’s surreally frightening portrait of the time in his narration of a nightmare, not his own: “I heard him whisper again, ‘ If the tyre bursts, there will be a massacre’.    

This is Kashmir in raw, beyond journalistic requirement for forced balance or to be politically correct. Beyond the need for subservience of the reporting of the human rights abuses to their  news value. This is a tragedy which is still playing out and for want of the topical news peg  will never make it to the newspaper headlines or television discussions. This is also the tragedy which even at this point of time is consuming thousands of families without anybody of us being remotely conscious of this. I have heard stories from the families crippled by the conflict – families which lost their young sons to the violence and now live life in abject penury, neglected by one and all.   Fahad’s is an attempt to open not one but several windows on this state of affairs. Lest, of course, we forget.