‘Like a land of permanent sorrow’: A visiting Indian photographer documents life in Kashmir

We are living in extraordinary times. Much of the world is on lockdown because of the coronavirus sweeping across the globe. Many of us are now faced with an unfamiliar situation, having to deal with restrictions on our normal behavior. Large gatherings are now something to avoid. A lot of us are working from home, there are no sporting events taking place, and even the status of our political conventions here in the United States is uncertain.

We’re doing all this to minimize the risk of being affected by the virus. But for some people, restrictions on their actions is part of daily life, coronavirus or not. The people of Kashmir, for example, have been living with restrictions for decades.

Kashmir, a mountainous territory at the northernmost tip of the Indian subcontinent, has been disputed between India and Pakistan since 1947. The dispute has resulted in three wars between India and Pakistan, along with many armed skirmishes. This article by Claire Parker in The Washington Post gives a more comprehensive look at the history of the conflict over Kashmir and where it stands today. One of the results of the continuing conflict is that India has imposed restrictions on the inhabitants of Kashmir.

Indian photographer Jayanta Roy recently traveled to Kashmir to document the day-to-day realities of life there. Roy told In Sight that when he was documenting life in Kashmir, the spread of the coronavirus was not a big issue. However, Kashmiris are no strangers to lockdown conditions because they have been facing strong restrictions since Aug. 5, 2019, when the Indian government moved to scrap Article 370 of its constitution, which gave Kashmir some autonomous powers including the right to make its own laws.

Roy’s bleak, yet poetic, black and white photographs of daily life in Kashmir remind us that even in the best of times, some people in our world are living under dire circumstances — not because of a pandemic but as the result of political forces beyond their control. As conditions around the world continue to evolve because of the coronavirus, Roy says, “now I want people to remember that a large population is suffering from the same pain we are facing now, but for longer than us, much before the covid-19 outbreak, and their suffering is like a never-ending nightmare.”


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