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Read how romanticising the nuanced conflict of Kashmir negates the trauma of its ground-reality.

There is a thing about pedestals- they act as an ideal way of distancing oneself from the responsibility of the reality. If one puts anything at a pedestal by glorifying it, and the sentiment acquires a ripple effect, then the glorified entity remains a far-away dream in popular imagination, because it is now an ideal one can seldom aspire to reach, or to change. In the mindset of countless individuals around the globe, the Kashmir Valley is on such a pedestal.

When we think of the ongoing conflict in Kashmir as twenty-first century young adults, not directly involved in its reality, it is almost always through a lens of Bollywood’s aesthetic frames. There is no denying the natural endowment of the Valley when it comes to its aesthetics, but this imagination often serves as a method to deny the human endowment of war and trauma in its past, present, and foreseeable future.

The mainstream media does not help change anything for us. Mainstream news outlets that reach the masses away from the site of conflict are often restricted by their own reasons- commercial, political, and populist- to present a Kashmir wronged by ‘the other’ (Pakistan, terrorists, violent militants) to us. What is activated in the Valley from the Indian end is either not revealed entirely, or is looked at as a retaliation on provocation. Movies exploit this narrative, supplying the masses often with an image of a tragically beautiful Kashmir Valley in violation by the enemy, while India is a saviour filled with good people and their great intentions. The narrative is of a damsel in distress.

As citizens of a time where the political scenario is largely based on turmoil and maligning the ‘other’, we take in the popular narratives and romanticise the tragedy further in our imagination. From the kind of literature we, as non-Kashmiris, read from and about the Valley, to the kind of films that are released about it, the utter grit of the conflict is almost always negated. Poetry and art are the media for numerous children of war to accept conflict as a part of their identity, and the richness of their verses and portrayals is often our entire worldview of a region in war with itself, and with the occupiers. The authority with which we then perpetrate the nuances of the issue on social media, and in our circles, reeks of a diaspora authority- distant, different, and sometimes indifferent to reality.

The Washington Post referred to 2018 as “the deadliest year in a decade in Kashmir” with over 400 reported deaths. In November 2018, a 20-month-old baby became the youngest victim of stone-pelting and lost her eyesight. Kashmir Valley is a region where violent conflicts can be listed by months. The grit of the violence is not a sonnet of beautiful sadness, but it is as real as a time-bomb that keeps ticking and killing at once. Samah Jabr, chair of the mental health unit at the Palestinian Ministry of Health, and many experts state that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a western concept as American soldiers return to normalcy after war, but the war never ends for those who are born in and then die in conflict-zones. For them, she explains, the fear of bombardment is not imaginary but justified; there’s no ‘post-trauma’.

We need to stop beautifying the horror in our imagination, and our expression, by becoming more than a distant onlooker. Films like Inshallah Football, No Fathers in Kashmir et al receive adult certification from CBFC, because of the authenticity of their conflict-portrayal. The least we can do as privileged citizens is seeking news, criticising cinema, and analysing our own understanding of the conflict in all its violent, political, traumatising manifestations, instead of remembering it merely as the land where pain breeds beauty for the outsider’s pleasure.

Feature Image Credits: NewsGram

Anushree Joshi

[email protected]