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.
Leaning on her daughter’s arm in the post-operative ward of a hospital in Srinagar, capital of the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, Raja Begam views the anti-infection pill she is being offered with a large dose of suspicion.
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.
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.
Bashir Ahmad Malik was flabbergasted when a helicopter carrying an Indian official from Kashmir’s summer capital of Srinagar landed in his resident Drang village, just 17 miles away from its point of departure.
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.
Jowhar Ahmed, an air-conditioner dealer in Srinagar, is pleased at a spurt in business this summer caused by temperatures soaring over 35 degrees Celsius - unusual in this alpine valley ringed by snow-capped mountains.
The violence that killed thousands in Kashmir during the turbulent 1990s has eased; now killer roads are taking their toll.
As part of recent confidence building measures aimed at minimising tensions between India and Pakistan, which arose largely due to conflicting claims over Kashmir, the two countries have decided to make the Valley an economic bridge, rather than a bone of contention.
After spending more than 15 years in Pakistan Administered Kashmir, Rafiq Mir (name changed) is keen to come back to his home in the part of Kashmir administered by India.
A year after the Indian government began paying pregnant women to deliver their babies in state-run facilities, the pressure is showing on the country’s understaffed and poorly equipped hospitals.
After scientists in Kashmir successfully cloned the pashmina goat, that produces the famous ‘cashmere’ wool, hopes are running high for the revival of the traditional shawl-making industry in this Indian state.
Naseema Akhtar, 38, worries that her daily treks to collect clean water from the mountain springs around her village of Bonpora, in Kashmir’s Kupwara district, are getting longer. She is already doing more than seven km every day.
As separatist militancy peters out in Kashmir, the valley is beset by armies of tourists who bring in the dollars but devastate the fragile ecology of ‘Asia’s Switzerland’.
Kashmir is missing out on a ‘demographic dividend’ and unable to cash in on its youthful population for lack of initiatives from a state government bogged down by a two-decade-old armed insurgency.
Kashmir is missing out on a ‘demographic dividend’ and unable to cash in on its youthful population for lack of initiatives from a state government bogged down by a two-decade-old separatist insurgency.
Weaning Afghanistan’s poppy farmers away from growing the raw material for the bulk of the world’s illicit heroin has never been easy, but Kashmir’s saffron cultivators may have the answer.
As armed insurgency in India’s northern Jammu and Kashmir ebbs, the elected state government is keen to hasten a return to normalcy by easing draconian security laws and reopening movie theatres and liquor shops, banned by fundamentalist militant groups.