In the fading light of a November afternoon, 12-year-old Mariya Sareer bends over a textbook, trying to read as much as she can before it gets dark. It's been nearly five months since the seventh grader from Shurat, a village 70 kms south of Srinagar city, last went to school, thanks to a raging political conflict.
In an isolated ward of one of Kashmir’s largest government-run hospitals, 54-year-old Ashraf Ali Khan is finding it hard to sleep properly. His 15-year-old son, Asif, is sitting on a bench near the bed staring at his ailing father.
In a congested classroom, 13-year-old Sahil Majeed is trying to copy on his note book what his teacher is writing on a white board with black marker pen.
As he struggled to find a section of the stream clean enough to rinse off his muddy shoes, Mohan Kumar, a Hindu pilgrim on his way to the holy Amarnath shrine in Indian-administered Kashmir, gazed with despair over the filth that lay thick on the landscape.
Rafiqa Kazim and her husband Kazim Ali had a simple dream – to live a modest life, educate their four children and repay the bank-loan that the couple took out to sustain their small business.
Forty-seven-year-old Shahmala’s husband has been missing since 1993. In India’s restive Jammu and Kashmir state, she is what is known as a half-widow, a woman who has no clue whether her husband is dead or alive.
Mehnaz Bano (not her real name), a 37-year-old woman in a hamlet in Indian Kashmir, is living a “satisfied and peaceful” life ever since she secured her daughter’s property rights before her remarriage – though not without a long and tedious struggle following her first husband’s death.
A vast and picturesque meadow called Tosamaidan, about 112 km west of Jammu and Kashmir’s capital Srinagar, has now become the rallying point for hundreds of villagers who want the artillery exercises being carried out there by the Indian Army to stop.
The famed pashmina shawl that keeps the cold away – in style and at a price – could itself have become the victim of winter. Thousands of goats whose fine wool is weaved into pashmina have perished in extreme cold being associated with climate change.
Zareena Bano has had to skip school 17 times this year to help out on her family’s farm in Tangchekh village in the northern Indian state of Kashmir.
As a little girl, Rubeena Begum had big plans: she would become a doctor and secure a decent income working in one of the 30 hospitals in the Himalayan state of Kashmir in north India.
Aadil Khan and his two siblings had been playing as usual behind their house in the village of Diver, 110 kilometres north of Kashmir’s capital, Srinagar, when they came across what they thought was a “plaything” laying on the ground. But no sooner had they picked the object up than it literally shattered their innocent lives into pieces.
The girl band in Kashmir was silenced; the male bands are running into fears of another kind of silence.
“Give us his body; we want to give him a respectable burial…” this is the overwhelming demand across Kashmir following the hanging of Mohammad Afzal Guru who was convicted for his role in the attack on the Indian parliament on Dec. 13. 2001. Nine people died in the attack.
Seventeen-year-old Afzal is an unusual orphan. Though his father died many years ago, his mother is still alive and living with Afzal’s grandparents and younger siblings in a house not far from the orphanage where the boy has spent most of his teenage years.
Amid growing scepticism among Kashmiri people that the separatist leadership has lost relevance in the region’s fast-changing political landscape, the All Parties Hurriyat (Freedom) Conference – an alliance of separatist political parties and religious and social groups - is making a Herculean effort to reclaim some relevance in this disputed region.
Nestled in a valley between the Great Himalayas and the Pir Panjal mountain range, Kashmir is an idyllic and culturally rich region, a cradle of Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist religious relics and architectural sites.
Fayaz Ahmad’s Faim Internet Café in the Sopore township of Indian Kashmir was booming until a year ago, when police entered his premises without warning and seized all his computers.
Parvez Ahmad Dar climbs three hours to reach the hilltop, generator-equipped tourist centre in Ajaf village, 35 kilometres from Srinagar, to recharge his mobile phone.
Rashid was 12 years old when he picked up a gun and received armed training in Pakistan. He was caught by the Indian forces in 1992 and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment. Five years later when he wished to return to a normal life, everyone turned away from him.
The violence that killed thousands in Kashmir during the turbulent 1990s has eased; now killer roads are taking their toll.