Alive in Frames

At the end of every month in Kashmir life settles in its own chaos, two generations sit silently in protest; they seek the whereabouts of a generation gone missing. Under the banner of Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons, this group heals themselves in solidarity as hope and despair play the cunning game. Being a photojournalist in a conflict zone such helpless yet determinant site can rarely skip attention. The pictures are taken from various monthly sit-ins that the APDP holds to seek the whereabouts of nearly ten thousand people in Jammu and Kashmir.

Many of these peoples have given up, yet at the site of a journalist or a rights activist you see them demanding justice with a renewed rigor. A collage of memory in hearts and frames on paper is all that seems to have been left. The families have been clinging to them like people do to dead.

Mothers, fathers, children all of them participate. Their only memory now it seems are these frames of loss they hold onto so dearly.

The disappearances go back to past two-decades. Some were children at the time of disappearances, some old and some yet to be born.

There dirges merge into the cacophony of the city. The tears muddled with the dust of life, many times I have felt that nobody is listening. And almost always have discovered they listening to each other.

This picture I took on the eve of Eid last year. While the people were busy in shopping, for the victim families it was time to remember the missing. This is Kashmir’s ‘Iron Lady’- Parveen Ahanger. Her son was picked up in early 90s and subjected to enforced disappearance. Ahanger, who is not formally educated has fought tooth and nail for justice that has remained elusive. She spearheads the APDP and has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Price.

Parveeen, in her journey for justice, has met many comrades with similar stories of ‘half-loss’. One of them Mughali, who died a few years back waiting for her son to return.

Even women have been subjected to disappearances. The picture is of one of the relative of a missing woman.

Pretty common, many faces haunt. The desperation so visible, the destiny so elusive.

Children are regular at these sit-ins. You speak to them and discover that they are grown-ups in a child’s frame. Many of them want to be lawyers to get justice. Normally, you would agree, that such realizations are hard at this age.

Many times the line between the journalist and activist gets blurred. In this picture a scribe from outside Kashmir in solidarity.