Children experience different risks and vulnerabilities in conflict zones. Children in Kashmir have witnessed the horrors of generations of conflict. They cannot escape the trauma, whether it's in schools, hospitals, playgrounds, streets or even their own homes. They have lived through unspeakable tragedies. They have their ways of perceiving and resisting the conflict and surviving through its daily consequences. Yet, their agency is often rendered invisible in mainstream narratives that position them as passive victims.
Memoirs reveal some individual experiences of young people living through political unrest. In another vein, pictures help narrate these conflict-ridden moments and stimulate reflection. Pictures can do most, if not more, of the heavy lifting we usually depend upon words to provide; to create an emotional response, and to ultimately, push the story forward.
This photo essay by Sadam Hussain depicts the everydayness of conflict and violence. It is a visual memoir of sorts that depicts the views of young people growing up in a heavily militarised region. It suggests that visual voices offer a space where the nuances of children's experiences of conflict can be seen and heard.
The earliest impression of the Kashmir conflict in my memory is not of blood and grotesque violence. The memory of it is more mundane, often limited to the senses of sight and sound. Growing up, I remember visuals of checkpoints, barricades, gunmen, barbed wires, and bunkers. My distorted photos with almost eye-piercing contrasts hope to capture these visuals of life under occupation. An attempt to archive the snapshot of the memory of a Kashmiri child walking along the militarised streets.
The is from a three-way crossing leading to Foreshore. With new bunkers set up, the place remains flooded with armed personnel. I remember going to Nishat and Shalimar as a child and army fatigues being the first sight I encountered.
The picture is on the way to Salfia with an army vehicle and barbed wires right outside a school.
Clicked while on a drive to Nishat, the presence of the armed vehicle in contrast to its surroundings is representative of how the ‘normal’ and ‘mundane’ experience of leaving one’s home always makes Kashmiris dreadful of violent 'encounters'.
Every Kashmiri child grew up with a fear of a faceless figure in olive-colored boots. Though the gun was not always pointed at anyone in particular, the sight in and of itself created a population of psychologically bruised children.
With a list of things noted that are covered under the CRPF’s Madadgaar project, the picture clicked in Hazratbal serves no purpose but an irony.
Lal Chowk from a low angle. The picture is a double entendre where the scale is representative of the oppression and the angle is representative of the visual experience of a young person.
Sadam Hussain is an independent researcher currently based in Kashmir. He has finished his undergraduate degree with an Advanced Major in Political Science from Ashoka University. His research interests include ‘state repression’ and ‘subaltern politics’. Even though Sadam is primarily trained in the discipline of Political Science, he has a deep-seated interest in poetry, audio-visual anthropology and photography.