Photographer: Yawar Nazir
Title: Kashmir – The Heaven in Turmoil
Location: Jammu and Kashmir
Period: 02/2021 - 11/2021
Category: Spot News

For decades now, Kashmir has been wrecked by conflict. The Himalayan region, often referred to as “Paradise on earth” for its majestic natural landscape, snow-capped mountains, gushing streams and rivers, has been a bone of contention between nuclear-armed archrivals India and Pakistan for over 70 years now.

The two countries claim the region as an integral part and have fought three wars over it since gaining independence from British rule in 1947. Discontent among the local population due to New Delhi’s political machinations and curbs on peaceful dissent led to a popular Pakistan-backed armed uprising against Indian rule in 1989, followed by years of a brutal military crackdown by Indian forces.

Over 80,000 people have since been killed, thousands disappeared and tortured, according to human rights organizations. “Martyr Graveyards” dot the landscape of the Himalayan valley, apart from the mass graves containing thousands of unidentified bodies. The region is now one of the most militarized zones in the world with over half a million Indian army, paramilitary and police personnel deployed here. Bunkers, enclosed by barbed wire, and military men are an ubiquitous sight. Although the violence ebbed and flowed in the region, the conflict took a new turn in 2008. That year thousands of Kashmiri youngsters hit the streets over a controversial government order, transferring hundreds of acres of ecologically-fragile forest land to a trust running a Hindu pilgrimage, and seen as an attempt by India to alter the demography of the region. India responded with months of curfew and use of force that led to killing of dozens of Kashmiris, mostly youngsters.

Two years later Kashmir erupted again over the extra-judicial killing of three youngsters by the Indian army and attempt to pass them off as Pakistani militants. Youngsters hit streets for months and were met with bullets and teargas by Indian forces. Over a 100 people were killed as normal life remained out of gear for months in the region.

Over the next few years, militancy which was on its last legs, got a new boost when Burhan Wani, a young commander of the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen militant group from southern Indian-administered Kashmir, captured the imagination of Kashmir’s young. Pictures of Wani, along with a handful of his comrades, guns slungs on their shoulders, would appear frequently on social media sites and go viral. Wani was killed in a gunfight along with another aide in July 2016 and Kashmir erupted in protests again. The Himalayan valley was shut for months amid curfew and curbs by government forces.

Over 100 people were killed and thousands arrested and blinded. The crackdown by government forces was also marked by unprecedented use of pellet guns, leading to injuries to thousands. Since 2017, the number of local youth joining militant groups started swelling along with gunfights between insurgents and Indian forces. The year 2018 is now being described as the “deadliest” in a decade in terms of civilian, militant and Indian forces’ casualties. Till December 23, at least 247 militants had been killed in gunfight with forces.

People throng gunfight sights in thousands, pelting stones at Indian forces, in a bid to save militants. Similarly, the funerals of militants draw mammoth crowds and local police intelligence have warned that massive turnouts at militants’ funerals being increasingly witnessed since 2016 were “glamorising” militancy in the region .



Kashmir – The Heaven in Turmoil

Kashmiri Toboggan pullers rest on their toboggans as they wait for tourists on February 8 2021 in Gulmarg west of Srinagar the summer capital of Indian-administered Kashmir India Gulmarg which is one of Asia s most popular ski resorts usually welcomes a huge number of foreign and domestic tourists each winter but this year the number of tourists has come down causing financial losses to local businesses Around 85 percent tourists used to be from foreign countries The dip in tourist arrival to the ski resort has been due to the coronavirus pandemic which has halted almost all foreign travel The domestic tourist arrival has picked up a little in recent days after lifting of restrictions on low-speed Internet 4G Internet was restored in Jammu and Kashmir after around more than seventeen months

Kashmir – The Heaven in Turmoil

Indian government forces are seen through a broken glass of a vehicle after a grenade attack on August 10 2021 in Srinagar Indian administered Kashmir India At least nine civilians were wounded when suspected militants lobbed a hand grenade on a vehicle of Indian government forces which missed its intended target and exploded on a road in a busy market in Srinagar

Kashmir – The Heaven in Turmoil

Indian army convoy carrying reinforcements and supplies drive towards Leh on a treacherous highway bordering China on June 13 2021 in Zojila 108 km 67 miles east of Srinagar the summer capital of Indian administered Kashmir India Last year in the beginning of the May 2020 Indian and Chinese troops engaged into a bloody clash over their shared border India rushed additional troops to Ladakh after claiming to have foiled what it called China s provocative maneuvers to change the status of Line of Actual Control the de-facto border between the two countries in the Himalayan region As many as 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a violent face-off with Chinese troops in June last year in the Galwan Valley along the Himalayas Chinese and Indian troops attacked each other with batons and rocks The deadliest clash since the 1962 India-China war and both had not exchanged gunfire at the border since 1967 The tension was defused on the Line of Actual Control the disputed border between the two nuclear-armed neighbours when both sides pulled back their soldiers this year in February Zojila has an impressive location enclosed by Kashmir valley on one side and Drass valley on the other side and functions as a major link between Ladakh and Kashmir is considered to be the World s second most dangerous pass located at 3529 meters The average snow buildup on the rocky Zojila- which is part of the 443 km 275 miles long Srinagar-Leh highway- normally stays in the level of 15 to 25 meters and is closed for half year It opens up in late spring and witnesses violent breezes because of the conical shape Travellers on the pass have to face and withstand snowstorms fierce air currents cold and highly dangerous circumstances

Kashmir – The Heaven in Turmoil

Amid the pandemic bodybuilders strike pose during the Mr Srinagar Bodybuilding Competition organized by Jammu and Kashmir Bodybuilding Association on April 04 2021 in Srinagar the summer capital of Indian administered Kashmir India At a time when India is in the grip of the second wave of Coronavirus pandemic COVID-19 Srinagar s many top bodybuilders took part in a championship even as the city is witnessing a surge in the Covid cases for the past few days and health experts have again urged people to follow Covid guidelines The championship was cancelled last year but the organisers went ahead with the event this year amid the pandemic Kashmiri youths are taking interest in bodybuilding making it a popular sport in Kashmir Many gyms have also come up in Kashmir where the youth train before taking part in bodybuilding competitions Body builders said sports can help ease the psychological trauma of decades-old conflict in Kashmir The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted the sports calendar globally Many major sporting events across the world have either been postponed or cancelled The Summer Olympics in Tokyo last year was rescheduled to this year Sports lovers and fans all over the world have no games to watch and players have no games to play As many as 93 249 more people tested positive for Covid-19 in the last 24 hours as the second wave of the infection rages across the country said the Union health ministry on Sunday Taking the nationwide COVID-19 tally to 1 20 39 644 according to Union Health Ministry data With more than 11 35 million recoveries since the beginning of the pandemic and 165 132 total deaths have been recorded

Kashmir – The Heaven in Turmoil

Indian army soldiers storm the area outside residential houses where suspected militants took refuge during a gun battle on June 28 2021 in Maloora on the outskirts of Srinagar the summer capital of Indian administered Kashmir India The gunfight took place after a joint team of the police and the army cordoned off the area and launched a search operation The forces had got a specific information about the presence of militants hiding in the area Kashmir is witnessing a surge in militant attacks since local pro-autonomy leaders met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the first time since the abrogation of the limited autonomy last week A policeman his wife and daughter were gunned down by suspected militants in Pulwama on Sunday

Kashmir – The Heaven in Turmoil

A Kashmiri Shiite mourner runs from teargas that was fired by Indian policemen to stop a religious Muharram procession on August 17 2021 in Srinagar Indian administered Kashmir India Hundreds of Shiite Muslim mourners were detained by the Indian police as they tried to take part in the procession Muslims all over the world mourn during Muharram the first month of Islamic lunar calendar the slaying of Imam Hussain grandson of the Prophet Mohammed who was assassinated by his political rivals along with 72 companions in 680 AD in Iran Shiite Muslims mourn by flagellating themselves with knives and swords India has banned any processions and similar public gatherings in Kashmir after a rebellion against Indian rule broke out in 1989

Kashmir – The Heaven in Turmoil

An Indian policeman fires a teargas shell towards Kashmiri Shiite mourners to stop a religious Muharram procession on August 17 2021 in Srinagar Indian administered Kashmir India Hundreds of Shiite Muslim mourners were detained by the Indian police as they tried to take part in the procession Muslims all over the world mourn during Muharram the first month of Islamic lunar calendar the slaying of Imam Hussain grandson of the Prophet Mohammed who was assassinated by his political rivals along with 72 companions in 680 AD in Iran Shiite Muslims mourn by flagellating themselves with knives and swords India has banned any processions and similar public gatherings in Kashmir after a rebellion against Indian rule broke out in 1989

Kashmir – The Heaven in Turmoil

A Kashmir man look towards the bullet-riddled wall of a residential house damage in a gun battle between militants and Indian government forces after a gun battle on June 29 2021 in Maloora on the outskirts of Srinagar the summer capital of Indian administered Kashmir India Two militants were killed and three Indian soldiers were wounded in a gun-battle between Indian government forces and militants The gunfight took place after a joint team of the police and the army cordoned off the area and launched a search operation The forces had got a specific information about the presence of militants hiding in the area Kashmir is witnessing a surge in militant attacks since local pro-autonomy leaders met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the first time since the abrogation of the limited autonomy last week A policeman his wife and daughter were gunned down by suspected militants in Pulwama on Sunday

Kashmir – The Heaven in Turmoil

Indian government forces detain a Kashmiri shiite mourner shouting religious slogans as he try to take part in a Muharram procession on August 17 2021 in Srinagar Indian administered Kashmir India Dozens of Shiite Muslim mourners were detained by Indian police as they tried to take part in the procession during Muharram the first month of Islamic lunar calendar Muslims mourn the slaying of the Prophet Mohammed s grandson Imam Hussain who was assassinated by his political rivals along with 72 companions in 680 AD in Iraq Shiite Muslims mourn by flagellating themselves with knives and swords India has banned any processions and similar public gatherings in Kashmir after a rebellion against Indian rule broke out in 1989

Kashmir – The Heaven in Turmoil

Sikhs carry body of Supinder Kour a female teacher who was killed by suspected militants on October 07 2021 in Srinagar Indian administered Kashmir India Two government school teachers including a woman were shot dead by militants in the Eidgah area of Srinagar city amid increasing attacks on unarmed people in Jammu and Kashmir police said The deceased have been identified as Supinder Kour a resident of Alochi Bagh area of Srinagar city and Deepak Chand a resident of Jammu They were working as teachers at Government Boys School Sangam The latest killing has taken the number of unarmed people shot dead in the valley to seven including six in the city over the past five days

Kashmir – The Heaven in Turmoil

An elderly relative of an Indian policeman who was killed in a militant attack mourns during a wreath laying ceremony at a police headquarter on February 19 2021 in Srinagar the summer capital of Indian-administered Kashmir India In a second attack in past three days in summer capital Srinagar of Jammu and Kashmir militants shot dead two Indian policemen on high security airport road on Friday Close Circuit footage of the attack showed a gunman charging out at the policemen and firing at them from a very close range with an AK-47 rifle Officials identified the slain policemen as constables Sohail and Mohammad Yousuf This is the second attack in the city in the past three days Militants shot at and injured son of a restaurant owner in high security Dalgate-Durganag area of the city on Wednesday

Kashmir – The Heaven in Turmoil

Kashmiri Muslim women plays with a child under Chinar trees which has changed it s colour in the Nishat Mughal garden during the autumn season on November 20 2020 in Srinagar the summer capital of Indian administered Kashmir India Autumn colours are reaching their peak as the days are becoming shorter heralding the approach of winter in Kashmir Known locally as the Chinar an indigenous variety of maple that is also known as the oriental plane is a deciduous tree that can be found in many popular Mughal gardens such as those at the Nishat Shalimar Harwan and Naseem Bagh