How my father recorded 100 days of curfew

Ieshan Wani

Kashmir

On 8th of October, I landed at the Srinagar airport. Nothing has changed since I left three months ago. Kashmir is still on the edge. The anger of the residents is palpable. The tensions are in the air and hit your face as soon you move out of the fortified International airport. Spools of concertina tell the story of a beautiful cage where people walk with their feet fettered.

Shadow of an Indian trooper near a barricade in Srinagar. View of Srinagar from the aircraft.
Photos: Ieshan Wani

Welcome to my home, where my identity is always in question from men in camouflage who have come from planes in hundreds of thousands. The barbed wires guarded by Indian armed forces come with frequent questioning.

Since Burhan Muzaffar Wani died during a brief gunfight in South Kashmir, the undercurrents of resistance have gripped the mountains and the vales of this Himalayan region. Speak to people and pat comes the reply: "This time, the mood of the people is different as compared to the uprisings of 2008 and 2010."

My father retired from government service three years ago. During his service, I have never seen him take a sick leave or stay home for any reason. He is restless these days, he has been restless since Wani died and Kashmir erupted in anti-India demonstrations.

Picture of a local daily after the young rebel commander was killed in a gunbattle in South Kashmir. Photo: Dad.

My father rarely sits at one place and relaxes. He keeps moving from one room to another, sometimes a stroll to the main gate of our house isn't even possible due to the air filled with tear smoke.

The only time he sits in peace is every morning when he reads local English and Urdu dailies.

Post his retirement, his ailing dad kept him busy. He spent most of his time attending him. My grandfather passed away this year after prolonged illness.

A neighbour crosses a wood log placed near an alley while others sit and discuss. Photo: Dad.

Since 100 days, the valley remains shut. Countless have been injured, at least 100 have permanently lost vision owing to use of pump action guns used by the armed forces. The government has also unleashed a massive crackdown. People are being arrested in hundreds each day and detained under 'lawless laws'.

Rocks used to block a road outside my home in the Old City. Photo: Dad.

The day I came home, a 12-year-old teenage student became the latest victim of the pellet guns. He succumbed to his injuries, which he sustained a day earlier, as local police "shot him from a close range near his house".

There was a stringent curfew in place. Not only did the government impose a curfew but people too ensured that a "civil curfew" was in place. People had created several roadblocks to stop police from entering in their locality. Official figures put the number of arrested to 446, but local press says the number is much higher.

A market is completely shut after the boy's killing. Photo: Dad.

Demonstrators and people have been confined to their personal spaces and bylanes owing to a strict curfew.

Back at my place, my father tries to tuck-in his stomach after I point it out. He holds his breath deep but isn't able to hide it.

Back at my place, my father tries to tuck-in his stomach after I point it out. He holds his breath deep but isn't able to hide it.

When I left, it wasn't the same. Every time I talked to him over the landline phone, I kept asking the same question: "What did you do today?” and his reply was similar too: "Eat, sleep and repeat.”

Both my parents have gained weight. Although my mother refuses to accept, but the reality is she has.

Elderly of the area sit on a shop porch. Photo: Dad.

My father thankfully isn't on any medicine nor has he ever been. He is enjoying a healthy life.

With age, he has become more tech savvy. On his phone, he recorded what he saw in 100 days, as his movement remained restricted to lanes around our mohalla.

Dad taking his picture on a window pane on the 80th day at the home.

From our house, he can move 400 meters to north: Fateh Kadal, 300 meters south to Kani Kadal, 170 meters west to Syed Mansoor Sahab bridge, 120 meters east to the point where all neighbors sit and pass their day.


Interactive satellite map showing the area where he could move. Credit: Ieshan Wani

Taking these measurements through google map, my father has his freedom restricted to 990 meters, 10 less than a kilometer.

The topics mostly discussed on shop porches-- typically known as 'pyend' in Kashmir-- are Kashmir uprising, oppression, cricket, and recent robbery of seven lakh rupees worth of gold ornaments belonging to a would-be bride in the locality.

Children sit outside their houses in the locality. Photo: Dad.

"A tear gas came suddenly from nowhere and burst near my friend, we all ran then, the conversation was left midway," he tells me.


He continues to record and show the beautiful prison that he is caged in.

Cow of a local milkman crosses a roadblock in the locality. Picture: Dad.