In the aftermath of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani's killing and subsequent curfew across Kashmir, the 'graffiti protest' is emerging as a new mode of resistance in several parts of Srinagar as youth "want India to read the writing on the wall(s)."
The slogans like BURHAN STILL IN OUR HEARTS, FREEDOM STATE OF WAR, THE LEGEND OF BURHAN, WE WANT FREEDOM, GO INDIA GO BACK have been painted almost everywhere—be it downtown or uptown localities of Srinagar. Anonymous youth take paintbrushes in their hands during the dead of the night when government forces happen to be asleep in their camps and inscribe the slogans on shop shutters, walls and even roads. At many places, the protestors have taken pains to paint the Indian flag and then write the famed 'RAGDA' slogan beneath it. One such picture showing a CRPF officer photographing this graffiti has gone viral on social media.
Graffiti as a form of political protest is a favourite mode of resistance in western countries as well as Middle East areas like Palestine. In Kashmir, graffiti protest started appearing with regularity after the 2010 unrest. The easy availability of cans of spray paint has made the job of graffiti-loving youths far more easy and fast.
The relatively benign-looking graffiti has also been getting immense exposure as both Delhi-based and international media have covered it.
"This is an easy way to get our word across the world. You have to simply write the protest slogans at the strategic points and then media does the rest. Secondly, it is also a constant eyesore to security forces as they feel unwanted at the place. Unconsciously it acts on their psychology too," said a youth. "Even tourists coming to Kashmir get to know the reality through these images. When they see Azadi slogans on every wall, they realize what Kashmiris want and the situation is different than what has been portrayed by their media."
Sensing the power of graffiti, the administration too seems to have taken the issue seriously.
At many places, black paint has been smeared on pro-freedom graffiti and at other places the wording has been altered to make such images look pro-government inscriptions. The youth term it as a "handiwork of security agencies", though there is no official word on it. BURHANS TOWN has been changed as BURHAN'S DOWN. In one case a slogan of ALIVE BURHAN has been turned unprofessionally into ALEIVE BUBBAN.