Wednesday, 25 March 2015

The dissenters: Kashmir's teenage stone throwers hit a nerve in territory dispute

The dissenters: Kashmir’s teenage stone throwers hit a nerve in territory dispute

By Nicole Crowder March 25 at 6:00 AM  

Nayeem, 17, sits in front of a window inside an abandoned house with his friend. He has been evading arrest for six months. (Showkat Nanda)

Police have been looking for 15-year-old Faisal for a year on charges of burning a vehicle during a violent demonstration in 2013. His house was raided three times before the assembly elections, but he could not be arrested. (Showkat Nanda)

The long conflict between India and Pakistan over Kashmir entered a new phase in 2010 when young stone-throwing teenagers began protesting, angered by the death of a 17-year-old student, Tufail Mattoo, who was killed by a tear-gas shell that shattered his skull. The teen became an instant martyr.

In the last several years, the  Indian government has fought back forcefully against the protesters. And although gunfights between Indian soldiers and suspected militants are not rare, the stone-throwing young men have become the most prominent face of anti-India resistance in Kashmir.

Photojournalist Showkat Nanda began documenting these young men, hiding out in abandoned homes and other deserted places out of fear of being arrested and tortured by government forces. In many cases he has concealed their faces in partial shadow to protect their identities. Night raids have made them and their families restless. Some of the boys refuse to go to school because of worries they will be arrested and mistreated. Those who have already spent months in jails have become more disgruntled and rebellious. In the absence of safety, many have moved closer towards alienation and isolation. The People’s Democratic Party, which came to power in recent Kashmiri assembly elections, has promised that all the cases against these boys would be withdrawn..

Zahid, 13, lost sight in his right eye after a tear gas shell fired by the Indian police hit him in the head in 2010. His mother says he was not throwing stones. They are unable to get any help for his treatment. (Showkat Nanda)

Sixteen-year-old Nayeem stands on the stairs of an abandoned house in North Kashmir. For boys like Nayeem, whom the police have been accusing of throwing stones during demonstrations, abandoned buildings and deserted places have become a safe environment to avoid being arrested. (Showkat Nanda)

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Aryan,15, lives in the downtown Baramulla area, which is politically seen as one of the most volatile places in Kashmir. He was arrested two days before the Eid-al-Adha festival and released after 15 days. (Showkat Nanda)

Fayaz Ahmad uses his handkerchief to cover his face during a protest at North Kashmir Palhalan village on February 11, 2015. The protests erupted after a 17-year old boy was shot dead by the police during anti-India protests. (Showkat Nanda)

Musaib, a 13-year old boy masks himself during a violent clash between protesters and government forces. Many young boys use the ‘Palestinian scarf’ called Keffiyeh to mask their faces during protests and clashes to conceal their identity. (Showkat Nanda)

Omar, 18, was captured by police during a raid at a ready made garments shop where he worked as a salesman. He was repeatedly hit by a huge rock that broke his leg. He was unable to walk without support for six months. (Showkat Nanda)

Sixteen-year-old Saqib has been evading arrest for a year. He spent two months at his relatives’ places. Here he is seen at the “martyrs’ graveyard” while his friends exchange a Keffiyeh, a checkered cloth used to cover faces during protests. (Showkat Nanda)

Ajaz is a high school student. He skips most of his classes for fear of being arrested as one of his friends was arrested on his way to school. (Showkat Nanda)

Men and women walk during the funeral of a 12-year old boy killed when Indian paramilitary CRPF fired at him in North Kashmir during an anti-India demonstration. The locals said that he was a bystander looking at the protesters and not a stone thrower. (Showkat Nanda)

Fourteen-year-old Ishfaq, right, waits for his turn outside a restroom in an abandoned hospital in North Kashmir. He and his friends have been spending most of their time here to avoid being arrested by the government forces. In 2014, he spent five months in jail. (Showkat Nanda)

Adnan, 14, an eighth grade student, was arrested in October 2014 and spent two months in custody. He fears he could be re-arrested if any violent incident took place. (Showkat Nanda)
Nicole Crowder is the photo editor for the Washington Post’s photography blog, In Sight.