Showing posts with label Photo Essays. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Photo Essays. Show all posts

Kashmir: A wounded Paradise

By Faisal Magray

The Kashmir conflict continues to be unresolved after more than six decades, fuelling the conventional and nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan and bleeding their economy. Both countries have gone to war on three occasions over Kashmir and the possibility of war between the two countries has become frightening given their nuclear weapon capability.

Kashmir continues to be the bone of contention between India and Pakistan. Each side insists it is right and the other is wrong. India insists that the accession of Kashmir to India is final and complete and hence Kashmir is an integral part of India and that all would be well in Kashmir, but for Pakistan's cross-border terrorism. Pakistan on the other hand, insists that Kashmir is a disputed territory and that it is merely providing moral and diplomatic support for an indigenous freedom struggle in Kashmir. 

A large number of Kashmiris do not believe that the 1947 accession is final; they insist that Kashmir is a disputed territory and demand self-determination. The Kashmir conflict not only continues to raise the spectre of war between India and Pakistan, but it also continues to produce serious human rights violations: summary executions, rape, and torture by both sides.

In their effort to curb support for pro-independence militants, security forces have resorted to arbitrary arrest and collective punishments of entire neighborhoods, tactics which have only led to further disaffection from India. The militants have kidnapped and killed civil servants and suspected informers.
 "Disappearances" of detainees also remain a serious problem. Not only has the practice continued, but there has been no accountability for hundreds of cases of "disappearances" that have taken place since 1990. An association of the parents of the disappeared person (APDP), one of the few human rights groups functioning in the state, has been Struggling from long time against  government to provide information about their missing sons.

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Palhalan : The Gaza Of Kashmir

 By  Faisal Magray

Palhalan is called the ‘Gaza of Kashmir’, a hillside settlement in the north of  Kashmir. It looks like an idyllic rural spot, where bushels of red chilies hang from the eves of steep-roofed wooden houses and hay wains jostle with shepherds in narrow streets. But the village has been caught up in months of violent protests that have roiled Kashmir. In 2010 an uprising  left over 120 people dead and thousands injured. Youngsters daub anti-India slogans on walls, yell at Indian police and soldiers to “go home”, and hurl stones.

Since July, ten people had succumbed to armed forces firing in Palhalan area. More than 90 have been wounded and hundreds have been arrested. Palhalan is a village where the Jamaat has had strong roots. During the heights of militancy Palhalan became a stronghold of the Hizb, the militant arm of the Jamaat.

When Kashmir was burning in the summer unrest, Palhalan, a village in Baramulla district, 30 km north of Srinagar, embodied that anger. As life returns to a fatigued normalcy in most parts of the Valley, Palhalan still reeled under military control, earning it the epithet of Kashmir’s ‘curfew village’.

Cut off from the rest of the Valley, Palhalan was subjected to two-and-a-half months of curfews, including 39 days at a stretch. Its phone lines were snapped, mobile phone services disabled and outsiders barred. As the death count rose, there were reports of molestations, looting, mosques being ransacked and boys being picked up from paddy fields during work.

 Family of  Adil ramzan sheikh a seventh grader was shot dead by govt forces inside a pattan hosipital.  Adil deaths not the first tragedy to have befallen the sheikhs. His grandfather was shot dead by government gunmen in 1997.
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Education In Shambles

By Faisal Magray

Government Schools in Kashmir work in the rented buildings ranging from a single room to three rooms, whether  owned or rented, almost all are dilapidated. Information revealed by the Directorate of School Education shows that there are 11633 Government schools in Kashmir division. This exceeds the number of villages, which stand at around 5,000. Most of the Government school buildings are rented, and few are government owned. Total enrolment in these schools is 10.23 Lacs out of which 5.73 lacs are Male students and 4.50 lacs are female. Most of the students who are enrolled in these schools belong to less privileged sections of society.

The picture is grimmer in the schools of Kashmir valley. Poor infrastructure continues to mar the performance of government schools, parents who are economically backward are sending their wards to these institutions. The government is not putting proper effort into streamlining the management of these schools.The economic survey report tabled recently in State Legislative Assembly revealed that the number of dilapidated schools across Jammu and Kashmir doubled in just one year from 474 to 948.
Majority of the Government schools in Kashmir Division lack basic infrastructure like toilets, washrooms, and play grounds, furniture, libraries etc. School Children are worst sufferers, they often do the job of cleaning and sweeping the school premises. They lay mats on the floor in the morning and roll them off every evening. The reason there are no sweepers in schools so the burden shifts to the children.

The common trend in Kashmir is that majority of parents who are economically wealthy, are admitting their wards to private schools which are said to have better facilities than those run by government. Lack of infrastructure apart, outdated teaching methods, outdated books, and the absence of libraries for children are other factors responsible for the trend.
A scene of utter dereliction and bits of collapsed building, this school dwarfs government’s tall claims of providing basic infrastructure. Inside, the condition of school is equally worse. The school is in shambles and teachers say the building could collapse any time.
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Annual Urs At Sufi Shrine

By Faisal Magray

The annual Urs – death anniversary— of revered Kashmiri saint, Sheikh Hamza Makhdoom (RA) is observed every year on the 24th of Safar, the second month in the Islamic calendar, with fervor and gaiety. Hazrat Sheikh Hamza Makhdoom sahib, popularly known as Makdoom Sahib and Sultan-Ul-Arifeen meaning ‘King of Gnostics’, is highly revered by Kashmiri Muslims and his shrine located on the southern side of the Hari Parbhat hill in downtown Srinagar Kashmir , is thronged by thousands of people during the 13-day Urs.

Sufi Saint had played a vital role in the diffusion of religious and spiritual education, social and political consciousness among Kashmiri Muslims. He inherited the mysticism, from the very childhood was inclined to the company of holy men, and to the truth. Kashmiri Muslims have been paying obeisance at the shrine for nearly 500 years now.

He not only guided people in religious studies but there are thousands who were benefited from his spiritual powers.  Apart from the annual Urs, thousands of people visit the shrine usually on Thursdays and Mondays, besides every 13th of the Islamic calendar to pay obeisance.

   View of Makhdoom Sahib Shrine which  is located on the southern side of Hari Parbat Hill in    Srinagar  kashmir . The  shrine  is double storied, in the name of the Sufi saint Makhdoom Sahib  popularly    known as  Sultan-Ul-Arifeen. Thousands of Kashmiri Muslims who believe in Sufism    throng the shrine  to offer prayers.
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Kashmir Intifada

 By  Faisal Magray

For four months following June 2010, the Kashmir valley was torn by mass protests - locally called the uprising or intifada -which were met with overwhelming force by Indian security forces. Curfews and closures were frequent, often shading into each other. Hundreds were killed and thousands injured. But there are also cases where mourners and even people engaged in daily activities have been indiscriminately fired upon.

Currently occupied by over 7,00,000 army, police and paramilitary personnel, the valley maintains the world’s highest concentration of soldiers, outnumbering all other conflict zones including Afghanistan, Burma and Iraq. Kashmir witnessed over a hundred twenty violent deaths during  summer unrest , known in some circles as the "second uprising" for freedom. In most cases, lethal force was applied against unarmed civilians — protestors, mourners, mere bystanders, or those who inadvertently got drawn into the cycle of protests. The pattern was similar in all parts of the valley, whether rural or urban. Instances were rife of the armed forces firing on unarmed assemblies or protests.

The story of injuries suffered through Kashmir's long months of unrest is in many ways as shocking as the story of the deaths. The official figure is that as many as 515 persons were injured between June and mid-October 2010; the actual numbers are likely to be many more. In the SMHS hospital records, the following categorisation of injuries had been made: bullet injury; pellet injury, firearm injury, tear gas burn, trauma, scalp injury, beating injuries, near drowning, eye injury, and stone pelting injuries. Present essay is a compilation of what I witnessed during kashmir Unrest, be it an Strict curfew day, Oppression, a dreadful night, powerful protests, the death of an innocent people, or children playing cricket.

An Indian paramilitary trooper stands guard near a barbed wire fence during a curfew imposed in Srinagar,Kashmir.
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By  Faisal Magray

The day of Ashura is marked by Muslims as a whole, but for Shia Muslims it is a major religious commemoration of the martyrdom at Karbala of Hussein (A.S.), a grandson of the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W). For Shia Muslims, Ashura is a solemn day of mourning the martyrdom of Hussein (A.S.) in 680 AD at Karbala in modern-day Iraq. It is marked with mourning rituals and passion plays re-enacting the martyrdom.

Shia men and women dressed in black also parade through the streets slapping their chests and chanting.  Some Shia men seek to emulate the suffering of Hussein (A.S.) by flagellating themselves with chains or cutting their foreheads until blood streams from their bodies.
Some Shia leaders and groups discourage the bloodletting, saying it creates a backward and negative image of Shia Muslims. Such leaders encourage people to donate blood.

Devout  Shiite men  beat their chests as they mark Ashura in Down town srinagar. Ashura falls on the 10th day of Muharram in the Islamic calendar and marks the anniversary of the death of Imam Hussein (A.S.), who was killed in 680 A.D. during the battle of Karbala.
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A look at an ancient craft

 By  Faisal Magray

Having served Kashmiri homes for centuries, traditional earthen pottery might soon become a thing of the past. Pottery took the shape of indigenous Kashmiri art and some people adopted it as a profession. Pottery is one such art, which was once very popular in Kashmir. The people, who are associated with this art, are called Kral (in kashmiri ) and (Potter in english).

Hundreds of people were, once, associated with this trade and products made by them were used for domestic purpose. The potter used to make numerous utensils with different designs  in their workshop. It is a wheel driven by hands. In the middle of it is placed a lump of clay from which pots are made. When desired pot is ready, it is then detached from the wheel by a special thread called kralpan (in kashmiri). From large vessels to miniature cups, they are first baked in the potters miniature kiln and then decorated. After then they are carried to the adjacent village markets where they are sold.

In Nishat, Srinagar, the locality of Kral Sangri was known for pottery making. Young and old in each family would make earthen pots. However, now only a few families make these earthen utensils in the entire locality. Pottery, once the main source of income for many, is now a closed chapter the inhabitants do not want to return to. During the past few decades these earthen pots have been replaced with aluminium, plastic and steel products, affecting the livelihood of a large number of artisans engaged in the trade.

However the tradition of using these items is fading away. It has forced the people, who are involved in this business, to look for alternatives as the demand for these items is declining. They have closed their workshops. Their condition is not good  they are living a miserable life. The golden hands which once chiseled marvels of soil have been neglected. These craftsmen have been deceived by their own ancestral art because it did not stand the assault of machine made utensils.

             The pots are shaped on the wheel. Potters’ hands work like machines they shape utensils    effortlessly.
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