31 August 2019

Photo Essay

Kashmir crossfire

Caught between India and Pakistan, the people of Kashmir have been forgotten

By Cédric Gerbehaye

Since early August 2019, Kashmir has been under an unprecedented lockdown after India revoked Article 370, a constitutional provision granting the region special status.

Kashmiris say they are living in an “open-air prison”. And while the new Indo-Pakistan crisis makes headlines about air strikes and military responses, the Kashmiris seem to be forgotten.

Since 1947, the Kashmiris have been the hostages of India and Pakistan as the two countries compete for territory covering Azad-Kashmir on the Pakistan side, and Jammu and Kashmir on the Indian side. For New Delhi, as well as for Islamabad, Kashmir is considered to be part of the very DNA of the existence of both countries. This territorial conflict resulting from British decolonisation led to four wars between the two nuclear powers of the region and is one of the oldest disputes managed by the United Nations. Since 1948, phases of tension alternate with phases of détente between Islamabad and New Delhi, without a permanent solution to the conflict having been found.

People protesting against the local elections in Kashmir after Friday prayer outside Jamia Masjid Mosque in Srinagar. They are asking for a boycott because there are only pro-Indian parties.

Relatives are grieving Mohammad Dagga who was killed on election day. He was obliged by the army to transport the election ballots with his van and was hit by a stone thrown by protesters when he was part of the convoy that left the polling station.

Funeral of Hizbul Mujahideen rebel Rayees Kachru in Bellow area, Pulwama district in South Kashmir. Two rebels were killed in a brief encounter with Indian security forces at Opadghampora Awantipora.

People shout slogans at the funeral of Hizbul Mujahideen rebel Rayees Kachru in South Kashmir.

Boys looking at the crowd, during the funeral, through a window of a minaret.

A Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) officer using a slingshot against protestors during post-Friday prayer clashes outside Jamia Masjid in Srinagar.

X-Ray of Basit Ahmad, 19, from Palhallan, Baramulla district. Basit was 17 in 2014 when he was caught by the Indian Security Forces while going to the mosque for evening prayers. He was beaten severely. He managed to free himself and tried to run away. The military fired pellets towards him. He received pellets in his whole skull and three pellets hit his left eye. He has undergone three surgeries in Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital Srinagar. He has lost 50 per cent of his vision. Due to the pellets still in his skull, he feels severe pain while sleeping on the left side.

A man injured by a marble shot with a sling by a CRPF during protest in the city centre of Srinagar.

A soldier is directing the traffic from a truck that was part of a military convoy attacked by gunmen on the bypass road in Bemina, on the outskirts of Srinagar.

Women are shouting slogans during the funerals of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Yassin Itoo in Chadoora area of Budgam district in Kashmir.

Policemen chasing protesters on the railway track on the outskirts of Srinagar.

Gulzar Ahmad, 18, from Budgam district is shouting “Azadi” (freedom) while arriving at Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital after being shot with pellets while protesting against the killings of civilians by Indian forces on election day. He was injured outside a polling station guarded by Indian Security Forces.

Amir Kabir was the first Kashmiri blinded by pellets. He was injured when he was 18 in 2010, during one of toughest uprisings in Kashmir – having gone out to buy his mother’s medicine in Baramulla.

Labourers work at a construction site in Srinagar. The graffiti translates as Brother Burhan and is written in solidarity with the slain Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani who was killed in an encounter with Indian Security Forces on 8 July 2016.

A vegetable vendor passes by on Dal Lake, Srinagar.

A CRPF policeman on the railway track during protests in the Rawalpora area.

A slingshot owned by a CRPF soldier in the Old City Srinagar. Stones are used as substitute when they are out of glass marbles.

Vishal, 25, constable in Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) poses for a portrait during the curfew in Srinagar.

Adil, 22, constable in Jammu and Kashmir Police (JKP) holds a pellet gun and hides his face as he lives nearby.

A Jammu and Kashmir Police constable holding a tear gas gun poses for a portrait during the curfew.

A CRPF policeman stops a man during a curfew in Nawa-Kadal area of Srinagar.

Relatives and family members sit next to Sahil Hamid after his return from hospital. Sahil Hamid, a 16-year-old student, lost both of his eyes after he was hit with pellets by Indian Forces in the Shopian District of Kashmir.

The fathers of two girls are seeking help from Syed Hussain, a faith healer in the Phuddah area of Anantnang district. More people with PTSD are taking help from faith healers.

A faith healer in Dhara is treating patients. Nearly 1.3 million adults (45 per cent of the population) in the Kashmir Valley show symptoms of significant mental distress, according to a mental health survey conducted by the medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières.

Farzan is trying to keep his eye open to administer medicine at home after coming back from hospital. He lost his eyesight when Indian Security Forces shot him with pellets in 2017.

Farzan is resting in his room after he was discharged from the hospital the day before.

The Governmental Psychiatric Disease Hospital in Srinagar. 

Orphan boys playing cricket in Gunj Baksh Park in Srinagar.

 Dal Lake, Srinagar.

Men washing shawls on the banks of the river Jehlum.

Inside Bulbul Shah Shrine in Srinagar. 

Amiral Kadal area in Srinagar.

 

When he set out in journalism as a photographer, Cédric Gerbehaye first travelled to Israel and Palestine during the Second Intifada to document the sense of disappointment and revolt that followed the Oslo Accords. From 2007 to 2010 he investigated in the Democratic Republic of Congo, receiving several international recognitions, including The Olivier Rebbot Award from the Overseas Press Club of America, Amnesty International Media Award and World Press Photo. His work has been featured in several exhibitions and received grants around the world: Magnum Foundation, Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, Scam, Journalism Fund. Four books have appeared to date: Congo in Limbo, Land of Cush, Sète#13 and D’entre eux. Images by Gerbehaye are to be found in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Musée de la Photographie in Charleroi, MEP – Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris and at the FoMu – FotoMuseum in Antwerp.

All photographs by Cédric Gerbehaye / MAPS