Noted photojournalist vows to continue depicting tragic situation in Indian occupied Kashmir


NEW YORK, Feb 10 (APP): Showkat Nanda, an award winning Kashmiri freelance photojournalist, who “grew up hard” in Indian occupied Kashmir, “a child of war, iron fisted rule and relentless tragedy”, say he is determined to continue his mission to tell the story
about the harrowing situation in his occupied homeland through photographs.
“I say that 90 percent of what happened in the last 26 years is still not known to the people living in other parts of the world,” Nanda, 34, has been quoted as saying in an article
published in the New York Times.
“I want to revisit most of those stories ” documented or undocumented” and tell them to the world in my own unique way, the way they have never been told.”
The article, entitled: ‘A Child of Kashmir’s War Grows Up to Document It’ by Evelyn Nieves, a regular contributor to the newspaper, said Nanda was seven years old in 1989 when rebels
some in their teens, some barely out of them mounted an insurgency against the Indian army that ran their lives. Within a year, it said, Nanda lost a brother and a cousin . Three months earlier, his 16 year old cousin had been throwing stones at government forces when they shot him dead.
“Everything became so uncertain,” recalled the writer.
“I stopped dreaming about my future. Survival became the topmost priority, even for children like me.”
The New York Times piece said, “War made him a photographer.
Nanda had discovered a knack for the camera as a boy when he borrowed a film SLR and taught himself how to use it. Had he grown up in another time and place one where who died, who disappeared and who lost a limb or an eye was not the daily reality
photography might have become a hobby.
He had dreamed of becoming a surgeon, after all, a likely profession for a good student from a middle class, educated family.
But he had seen too much. Nanda studied documentary photography (he has master’s degrees from the University of Kashmir and, thanks to a Fulbright Fellowship, from the University of Missouri) and made it his life’s goal to tell the untold stories of his homeland.”
The New York Times said his “The Endless Wait” project focuses on the effect of enforced disappearances as men suspected of rebel activity or who knows what were snatched from their beds, the markets and the streets during the conflict’s last 26 years, never
to be seen again.
“Enforced disappearance is a tactic used in conflicts all over the world, but the vanishing of thousands of men in the villages Mr. Nanda has traveled through have received little attention
outside Kashmir,” the article said.
“Human rights groups place the numbers at 6,000 to 8,000. International and local human rights groups have found 2,700 graves in North Kashmir alone, some with more than one
body. Most families have never found their loved ones, so even with the occasional news of more graves, they continue to hold out hope.
“There is even a name for the women who are still waiting to find out what happened to their husbands, not knowing whether they are alive or dead: ‘half widows’.
The paper said some of the haunting images in “The Endless Wait” are of women Nanda knows, longtime friends and neighbours. Some he met and came to know through repeated visits (often while carrying only a Fujifilm BX100T, with its fixed 23mm lens, trying to remain as unobtrusive as possible).
“Most, if not all, the people he documents have spent countless hours and all their possessions, reduced to abject poverty, searching for their loved ones in jails,
police stations, army camps and torture centers. None that he knows of have been reunited with their loved ones or received their remains,” the writer said.
“To be lucky is to know what happened. One woman, Hajra Begum, a 74 year old widow, received a fist sized bag of soil in November 2015. It was from the grave of her only son, who had disappeared in the summer of 1997.
“Mr. Nanda completed what he calls the first phase of ‘The Endless Wait’ with support from the Magnum Emergency Fund, and hopes to exhibit it within Kashmir and beyond. But he is just getting started.
“In the next phase of this project, he hopes to document the resilience and resourcefulness of these women and families.”
“Despite suffering so much pain, which is unending,” he was quoted as saying, “there is also a positive aspect of their lives, like bringing up children and educating them.” He wants
to capture the hope the women represent by carrying on their lives.”