Youth in Indian-controlled Kashmir fight for independence with art
Despite a rising art scene across India-controlled Kashmir, a much-touted arts festival was canceled because of popular backlash against possible India government involvement.
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Such experiences, he says, have made it easy for many Kashmiri writers to turn away from supporting the Harud Literary Festival.Skip to next paragraph
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More exposure for artists
Still, Vijay Dar, the main organizer of the now-canceled festival and former adviser to the prime minister of India in the mid-1980s, insists that the objective of the event was to give young writers and artists like Rather more exposure.
“There are a lot of youngsters who are into writing and the arts, not only in Kashmir but also in neighboring regions like Jammu and Ladakh,” says Mr. Dar, who owns the school where the festival was supposed to be held.
His school is located next to Kashmir’s biggest military base – also a point of contention for many Kashmiris who wondered why the festival was being held in a heavily militarized area. “We thought a literary festival could give them a lot of coverage and maybe become an international festival.”
Born of conflict
As the Monitor reported earlier this year, MC Kash is Kashmir’s first rap singer became popular during the summer of 2010 when more than 100 Kashmiris, mostly young boys, were killed by Indian security forces.
While the conflict may have fueled these young people’s artistic pursuits, the environment in the region and lack of resources make it very challenging for them to move forward with their artistic and literary pursuits. MC Kash does not have a sound mixer and has never ventured outside Kashmir. Other young artists struggle to survive, like self-named Apple Kashmir, one of the few female artists in the disputed territory.
“I have not seen much work by artists, and virtually nothing by female artists in Kashmir,” says Ms. Apple. “Even though the place is really beautiful, it is a really heavy environment for any kind of artist to work here. There really is no space to show your work or any kind of market for people to buy it.”
Apple grew up in a remote village in Kashmir. She moved to Mumbai, where she began working as a model, artist, and singer. She recently moved back to Kashmir and is starting her own brand of hand-designed belts, while trying to sell her paintings to support herself.
On their own terms
These writers, singers, and artists say they would like to have a literary festival in Kashmir and a way to share their work, but they want to do so on their own terms. Mr. Kak, whose book “Until My Freedom Has Come” got its title from a song by MC Kash, thinks that could be possible.
“If a literary festival is what Kashmiris want, surely there will be one. Even if the Harud Literary Festival were to want to reappear from the ashes, I'm certain people would welcome it. Now that the dust has begun to settle, surely its organizers have a better sense of the sensitivities – and the politics – of Kashmir. I'm sure they will not trip over all the wires again, like they did this time around.”