Photo courtesy Itu Chaudhuri Design.
Photo courtesy Itu Chaudhuri Design.

Against forgetting. Against erasure.

On meaning, storytelling, and memory-making in Kashmir.

In February 2021, Mushtaq Ahmad Wani, a resident of India-administered Kashmir's Bellow village, was arrested with six others for organising a prayer at an empty grave he dug with his own hands. According to recent updates from the ground, he was charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and spent several months in imprisonment. Wani had dug that grave for his 16-year-old son Ather Mushtaq Wani, a class 11 student killed by Indian forces in Lawaypora on December 30, 2020. Ather lies buried hundreds of kilometres away in the picturesque tourist spot of Sonamarg. The same year, the Inspector General of Police (IGP) of Kashmir, Vijay Kumar announced in a press conference that they had buried 158 armed rebels in isolated locations across the Valley in a move which, according to him, had stopped the 'glamourising' of "terrorists". He called this action historic.

Ather is one among thousands who lie scattered in unmarked graves (a few of these graves later marked by families) throughout the region, denied dignity even in death. What marks Kashmir, then, is not just an absence of people – or their bodies – but also a wider absence of justice, of freedom.

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Himal Southasian