Video: Indian artists take to canvas to paint conflict-torn Kashmir

Artists from diverse backgrounds and cultures have come together under a single platform to paint the conflict-hit valley where over 90 people were killed and thousands injured in forces’ action on protests after the July 8 killing of militant commander Burhan Wani.
Video: Indian artists take to canvas to paint conflict-torn Kashmir
Development practitioner Omar Hafiz who has launched the initiative, “Athwas – Handshake for Kashmir

Artists from diverse backgrounds and cultures have come together under a single platform to paint the conflict-hit valley where over 90 people were killed and thousands injured in forces' action on protests after the July 8 killing of militant commander Burhan Wani.

Development practitioner Omar Hafiz who has launched the initiative, "Athwas – Handshake for Kashmir", says the idea behind the project was to explore alternative forms of resistance.

"I saw people shooting and uploading videos on the social media which only showed stone-pelting, sloganeering and use of pellets and bullets.

I wanted to do something different. And that is when I got this idea of getting artists to paint Kashmir," says Hafiz.

Saddened at the violence and muted reaction from Indian intelligentsia, Hafiz set out for Delhi from his home in Anantnag district of south Kashmir – epicenter of the current uprising.

(Omar Hafiz in this file pic)

"I wanted to change the monotony. I wanted people in India to react to what was happening in Kashmir valley because I couldn't stand their indifference to the injustice meted out to the fellow Kashmiris," says Hafiz, who has worked on issues involving women empowerment, sexual violence and child education.

He toured 14 states and brought around 20 artists together after a two-month-long exercise.

"20 artists agreed to paint what they felt about Kashmir, especially in the backdrop of violence triggered by the killing of Burhan Wani," he says.

Hafiz has produced a short film in which he has incorporated views and expressions of half-a-dozen of artists. "We have uploaded the film on YouTube to ensure that it is spread far and wide. Our motto is that more and more people outside Kashmir know about the situation in the valley and react to the happenings."

Muskaan, an artist from New Delhi, says that a beautiful woman with a bright face, covered in a traditional scarf outlined with jewelry, would come to her mind whenever she thought of Kashmir. "Not anymore," she says. "When I think about Kashmir now, it's the same face with eyes being damaged (blinded)and blood instead of tears rolling down her cheeks as bullets and pellets kill and blind her loves ones every now and then."

Appalled at the insensitivity of the Indian people to civilian killings in Kashmir, another photo artist has appealed to his fellow countrymen to "love Kashmiri people too"

"Kashmir as we all know is a heaven on earth and this heaven has become hell for its own people from past many decades now. Geographically, they are with India but they haven't enjoyed this belongingness. As a photo artist, I wanted to show how India would look without Kashmir. My only message is for every Indian that let's not just love Kashmir only, let's love Kashmiri people too," says Jitin Prasannan from Kerala.

But, according to Hafiz, the punch line is delivered by an art form by Chennai-based artist Saahil Sagar, who calls upon Indians to do something for Kashmiris to make them feel better.

"So many people were killed but we couldn't do anything. It is time that we do something that will make Kashmiris feel better because they have endured lot of pain," says Sagar.

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