Photos: Life in the Valley, Caught Between Light and Shadows

Aunts and relatives of Umer Bhutt mourn his untimely death. Credit: Shome Basu

Aunts and relatives of Umer Bhutt mourn his untimely death. Credit: Shome Basu

At the tarmac, from the windows, one can see men in khaki and olive fatigues, with INSAS and AKs and heavy bullet-proofed jackets protecting their chests; eyes poking out of their helmets, searching and examining every corner.

​Even at first glance, Srinagar feels quite foreign.  Even the architecture looks more like that of Central Asia, and so do the Kashmiris. This feeling is further intensified when an undercover cop walks over to me at the luggage belt and asks if I were a foreigner.

Nestled between the Himalayas and the Pir Panjal mountain range, Kashmir was, is and always will be a paradise. Sadly the views it affords comes at  a price. With boundaries that stretch across two hostile countries – India and Pakistan – Kashmir has a tragically tortured past and present.

With over 7,00,000 army, police and paramilitary personnel, the Kashmir valley maintains the world’s highest concentration of soldiers, outnumbering all other conflict zones including Afghanistan, Burma and Iraq. Sentiments of fear and ferocity engulf the region.

This photo story is an anthology of the many facets of everyday life in Kashmir, that I captured over the course of my decade-long coverage of this ill-fated paradise. I focused my lens on the disruption produced by curfews and ceaseless protests on the daily lives of the Kashmiri people.

What follows is a compilation of what I witnessed, be it an eerie curfew day, a dreadful silent night, raging protests, the death of an innocent bystander, or children playing cricket. These photos offer a window into the terror and dread that fill Kashmiri eyes and capture those unfortunate daily events that have created a conflict zone amidst serenity. Civilians and those in uniform alike, all live in a climate of fear. My photographs aim to speak for a people who are rarely heard.

Shades of Kashmir by Shome Basu. Foreword by Happymon Jacob. B/w documentary reportage
New Delhi: Niyogi Books, 2015. Price: Rs.1,495