"They have occupied our rattekoal (summer) and made surgical strikes into our soanth (spring) and harud (autumn), but when wande (winter) arrives..."

Memories of everyday encounters in Kashmir

  • Sarah Ewald (Autor/in)

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The following essay is a personal account of two several months long stays in the Himalayan Kashmir Valley during autumn-winter of 2016 and 2017. Staying in Kashmir had a couple of reasons, one was a research interest in different kinds of work networks and how through them the political situation of the larger region could be understood more thoroughly. This essay though is rather about what happened in between the more official interviews. Text and images developed by and by, based on several diary entries and the visuals I took during these months. The different paragraphs do not claim and don’t want to be a coherent narrative or analytical piece, they are more like fragments of conversations and time spent with people in different parts of Kashmir, people who are friends, became friends or whom I met and accompanied during their work. The essay struggles with one open question, however. There are almost no names mentioned in the text and no faces visible in the pictures. One could say this follows an academic convention to anonymize people, also for their own safety in parts. From a perspective of ‘representation’, on the other hand, it would be a right thing to give full references. These particular, small insights into people’s lives are unique, while at the same time, coming to Kashmir since a few years now, I could have added several names to most of the paragraphs. Without having a final answer to the open question, for me, the essay therefore is an attempt to share my subjective understanding of what I see as some of this society’s strengths showing in individual and collective engagements, as well as what people have to struggle with due to the impossibility of not being involved, in the one or other way, in the larger regional politics. While writing this introduction, Kashmir, a region which’s population is equal with countries like Switzerland, Hungary, Austria, Bulgaria, Senegal, Bolivia or Sweden, and the people living there, remain under a complete communication lockdown, imposed by the Indian army for more than seven weeks now, with a more and more precarious health and food supply situation. Considered as the most extensive shutdown in the history of Kashmir, cut off from the rest of the world, it was the Indian government’s strategy to silence people’s protest against India’s unilateral decision to remove the autonomous status of the region from its constitution on 5 August 2019. Neither was the government of Jammu & Kashmir involved in this decision (rather it was put under detention, together with several thousand other Kashmiris), nor anyone living in Kashmir.