Ather Zia is from Kashmir. She has published her first collection of poems, "The Frame," and her work has appeared in a variety of magazines, including Convergence Journal, Blazevox, and others. Her work of creative fiction is forthcoming. When not writing she is a graduate candidate in anthropology at UC Irvine. She is also journalist and edits Kashmir Lit at www.kashmirlit.org. email: editor [at] kashmirlit.org
Back in Srinagar after a year, the first thing I noticed was packs of dogs hanging at every nook and cranny. A few dogs ran after us while boarding the car at the airport. The dogs looked well fed and territorial. They ran snarling through streets – a sight which should be unusual for any city that claims to be well-administered. As the dogs hurled past squirming people, grimy and emaciated children with huge flailing gunny bags were raking through mountains of debris lining the road. We hit a traffic jam that that did not open for almost an hour.
Censorship and a literary festival in Kashmir
Since 1947, Kashmir has been subjected to three full scale wars between India and Pakistan. The last one occurred as the two nations were poised to become nuclear powers. Until the late 80s, the nature of tension in the valley between these full scale battles can be viewed as latent violence. This period was dogged by rigged elections, corruption, dissent, and awry political coalitions, which led to shaky governments. It was in 1989 that the armed militancy broke out.
The picture above is a few months old.
It is an allegory of the Kashmiri people (cannot call it a nation since the word bears no trace of coherence, at least at this moment in time). Haneefa lies injured and paralyzed from waist down. Bedridden, teeming with sores and worries. A single mother to a 13 year old Humaira, her only daughter. Humaira, as is obvious from the picture has matured beyond her years.
Recently, six of us Mantle bloggers were asked to discuss the one story we were going to keep an eye on for 2011. Because of space restrictions I could not fully explain the reason for my choice, that is, Arundhati Roy's stance toward Kashmir. Here then, is that explanation.