The Division of Kashmir Through Political Voices

fists raised in protest
Illustration by Saad Hasib

Kashmir for many used to be a piece of heaven on Earth, but now it’s one of the most volatile and militarised zones on Earth. How did this happen? And most importantly how are it’s inhabitants coping with it?

After the partition of 1947, Kashmir has been violently contested by both India and Pakistan. Because Kashmir, a princely state, had a Muslim majority but a Hindu King, there was a conundrum as to whether it should cede to Muslim majority Pakistan or secular India. During this period of ambivalence, Pakistani militia groups attacked Kashmir which forced the King Hari Singh, to ask India for help and thus cede to India. Following this, several Indo-Pak wars have been fought and treaties signed.

The latest development was the repeal of Article 370 and 35A by the Indian Government, without any deliberation with the Kashmiri representatives, that gave semi autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir.
Anticipating violent backlash from Kashmir and Pakistan, India stationed thousands of military personnel in Kashmir and enacted the longest communication and digital lockdown in the history of civilised democracies. Thus essentially isolating Kashmir from the rest of the world indefinitely.
In January of 2020, Internet and communication access was allowed again due to the international backlash against such unconstitutional sieges.

It was during these uncertain times, that the people of Kashmir suffered the most and started their new journey to protest to the greatest of lengths too.

Politics and literature have become inseparable in ordinary Kashmiris’ lives. With many Kashmiri politicians still under house arrest, political sympathy for Independent Kashmir has gone underground. Very few, if any at all, politicians in Kashmir speak against the atrocious situation created by the Indian Government. However, this hasn’t stopped Kashmiri public and artists from speaking up.

Kashmiri artists are continually searching for and using varied methods of art to convey their plight. The plight of Kashmir. Like in politics, in arts too the Indian Government has cracked down on artists. On accounts of ‘sowing discord’ and ‘terrorism’, many artists have been banned and are under surveillance.

‘In the last 30 years, I have never seen this kind of suppression’, says Madhosh Balhami, who had his house and countless poetry books burned down in 2018 by a scuffle between the Indian military and terrorists.
He says that he mainly remains underground along with many other writers and poets who fear to be jailed under anti-terrorism laws for their resistance literary works.

Zareef, pen name, recalls ‘In terms of political or social commentary through art, the Kashmiri tradition of Bhand Pather, or folk theatre and art performed on the streets, has showcased satirical art as dissent very well’. The communication lockdown by the government, however, doesn’t allow it anymore.

Still relentless efforts continue by fearless Kashmiri artists. One of them is Syed Areej Safvi who is on the quest to revive 150 year old art of Ladishah, which is a form of indigenous poetry storytelling, to highlight the voice of women. She critiques the government through satirical performances on YouTube, in an attempt to resist in her own ways.

Another such fearless poet is Rmuz, who is writing apology poems for future generations to come. To apologise for not stopping the abrogation of Article 370 with their last breath.

Kashmiris are not only protesting through poems and stories but also with visceral artwork that manages to pierces even the most silent ones. Inder Salim turns blood splattered pellets into eye-catching jewelleries for the onlookers to wear. He can’t find a market though, as arbitrary arrests are always a fear.

Most artwork and literary ventures from Kashmir get featured in International articles and stages, and not in Kashmir. An omnipresent fear of being banned and harassed forces them to go underground, like the famed MC Kash has, a revolutionary artist

Film industries outside of Kashmir continue to make conflicting movies on Kashmir, which often misrepresent or outright lie about the Kashmiri perspective. Films like ‘Kashmir Hamara Hain’ and ‘Dhara 370 and 35A’ were released after the princely status of Jammu and Kashmir was revoked. These movies did an astounding job to legitimise the Indian Government’s military crackdown and trying to paint India as ‘the good guy’. The political smell reeking from these movies gave a very explicit news to the audience: Kashmir belongs to India and this won’t change no matter what. Following the trail, several high profile Indian actors showed public support to the government while completely disregarding the inhumane conditions that were soon to ensue in Kashmir.

The message from Pakistan however, very predictably, was the exact opposite. Music videos such as ‘Ja Chor Day Meri Waadi’ and ‘Kashmir Qo Haqq Do Bharat’, produced by ISPR (Inter-Services Public Relations) of Pakistan, were very direct and vehement attacks on India which have garnered huge popularity among Kashmiris. Likewise, Pakistani artists and celebrities continue to offer support and sympathy for a free Kashmir in contrast to their neighbours.

These confrontations of these two Nuclear powers will continue. Be it in the media or in trade. It’s not their voice that matters but the Kashmiri voice that does matter, but often gets ignored in matters of its own concern.
‘Soz: A ballad of maladies’ by Tushar Madav and Sarvnik Kaur’ is a documentary on Kashmir conflict that takes historical context into account and talks about the Kashmiri Point of View, and isn’t engaged in the mud throwing war like Pakistani and Indian media.

Numerous books are being written by Kashmiri writers to restore tales of these uncertain times so that the next generations aren’t robbed of it by the ongoing intellectual and cultural erasure of Kashmir by the Modi Government. ‘Muunu: A boy in Kashmir’, by Malik Sajad and ‘Curfewed Night (2009)’ by Basharat Peer narrate the mind numbing trauma and cultural massacre that Kashmir suffers from and will probably continue to suffer from because of unending human greed.

Kashmir isn’t only suffering from this ongoing assault but also from the events of the not-so-long-ago past that continues to haunt Kashmir. The Exodus of Kashmiri Pandits of the 90s still continue to bleed the hearts of evergreen Kashmiri victims and literature. Siddhartha Gigoo’s ‘The Garden of Solitude’ (2010) still continues to remind Kashmir of the heart wrenching migration of Kashmir’s Hindus.

Nowadays, novels and artworks are being produced, even under traumatic and dangerous circumstances, on Kashmir by Kashmiris that talk about them and their predicament. Some write about the bloodshed and PTSD that Kashmir is a regular audience to, while outsiders ignore that to write about the enthralling Dal Lake that everyone wants a piece of. Alas, no one wants Kashmir and Kashmiris to have that piece.

Written by: Maliha Rahman

Rhyme or No Rhyme, That Is The Question

Rhyme or No Rhyme
Illustration by Saad Hasib

Now, what amount of poetic expertise
Would be ample enough – I do not know.
I know, some things are stirring in the distance –
A butterfly and a hundred such crows.
Listen to the wind, and listen closely,
The wind has a tale to tell.

Rhyme is considered as something very fundamental to poetry. The simplest way to ever describe a poem would be to call them words that rhyme. However, rhyme is not an immanent aspect of a poem. 

A huge number of people believe that the best kind of poetry is one that has some sort of rhyme. There’s no doubt that the ability to rhyme is a great talent. At the same time, not being able to rhyme is not a lacking of any kind.

With every age came a new type of poetry. There may exist a hierarchy in terms of succession, but that’s it. No one form of poetry is better than the other. 

In today’s age, the very definition of what is and isn’t poetry is not only changing but also expanding. After all, we are all poets now, we all write, we all feel. 

So, what would be the 2021 definition of poetry? Anything written from the heart that has a melody to it is poetry, or so I’d like to say.

Even though they call it a river
It’s actually a dream.

I once came across a person who said that poems have to rhyme. As they were very good at rhymes and I wasn’t, and as they felt superior to me for that very reason and I accepted it, I felt my inability to rhyme meant I could never be a good poet. 

I tried to rhyme but failed miserably. At one point, luckily so, I gave up on rhymes. I decided that I’ll write what I feel, and if it sounds good to me that will be enough. And just like that words flew out of my fingertips and started appearing on the screen in front of me.

In this city
It’s always quite quiet
You could hear the trains arriving 
Bringing lost souls to their homes
And taking aboard those who don’t have any yet.

Personally, I’m more of a fan of playing with words (not wordplay) than rhymes. I like twisting sentences, tearing down their simplicity, and bringing out something melodious. One can say that’s because I can’t rhyme. To be honest, I’m not a fan of structure altogether. That’s why I will never be writing a haiku or a sonnet. But free verse I’ll do. In fact, the popularity of free verse in today’s date is astounding. Maybe this “structure” is freeing, not restricting.

It was a sound,
Yes, it was a voluminous sound.
It came very quietly, very very quietly,
It came as the song built up itself,
It came as the words became lyrics,
It came as the lyrics filled up the brain,
It came as the brain slowly started to feel.

So, as a budding poet, should you concern yourself with rhymes? No. Not entirely.

Rhyme or no rhyme – there’s no answer to this question. In all honesty, this question doesn’t matter to me at all. And I’d like it to be the case for you too.

When I first learned about scansions, it really bothered me. Somebody dissected poems, things that existed before any rule was imposed upon them, and put forward endless rules without which, they declared, one can’t write poems. Something arbitrary was taken as a standard and now we have to live with it.

Whether it was my stupidity or my inherent reluctance, I couldn’t learn scansion. 

All of what I said so far can be taken as a postmodernist approach to poetry, or literature as a whole. Simply put, it’s about breaking down structure and rebuilding it anew, without being limited by standards and forms.

So far, I’ve only been talking against rhyme, but that doesn’t mean I’m against it. I’m only against the idea of considering only a particular style of poetry best, and the rest as something less.

One day
All that will remain of this
Is nothing. 

There are smokes on the road
In the houses on top of skyscrapers
In the eyes of those who are lost
And the worst of its kind is now soaring
From the heart of the great Amazon. 

Written by: Atanu Roy Chowdhury

What will it be?

Ikram Hossain Akif

a blue person kneeling on their legs, their face in their hands

The murmur of wind, whispering by
As I drift past the trees, the cars,
and the dead. All the bits and puzzles pile
up into a mountain. A peak, mile
high, but I keep running.

“No time to cry, to feel.
Run, escape the pull as they reel
you in. Don’t heal.
It’ll all be in waste.
Wait for the next time, in haste,”
I tell myself. A pang in my heart
screams aloud, begs to know,
When will it stop?
I sigh, “When I fall apart.”

As fate would have it my legs give
way to broken bones and tears
as I fall to my knees. I can’t help but
let loose and face my fears.

The mountain comes down,
all on me at the same time.
And when the dust settles,
and all I hear is the midnight chime;

I see it. I don’t have to run;
I don’t have to hurt to be heard.
I can have joy, without being coy,
I will be me as loud as can be.
That’s the beauty of life, here and now.
I will be hurt by things I allow,
and that’s okay
as long as I choose the happiness too.
The bittersweet feeling of accepting it all.

I see it now.

Oranges and Clementines

Faiza Ramim

An open window with wind blowing at the curtain with the sun in the corner and a branch of a clementine tree with three fruiting clementines and leaves on it

The morning light pours through the windowsill
creating broken fragments on the kitchen counter ;

It’s the beginning of September.
I think I can change my life if I want to.

The morning light pours onto the kitchen counter
And as i stood there, before an open jar of honey;
stirring it into my father’s tea,
a plain cup left for my mother
Hands reaching towards the sugar next for mine with practised ease,
I realised that this is what I wanted as love.

I wanted to love as a habit,
as a muscle memory.

I wanted to love without thinking about it.

To love because I’m so full of it I want to give it away to everybody.
keep it stored at every corner of the world and still be left with just enough.

To love and show it in the most sincere way I can.

I love you. I know how you like your tea.

It’s the middle of september.
It’s the month of epiphanies against the kitchen counter.

I think I can change my life if I want to.

Wring out the doubt, the cynic out of me like a wet sponge
And use it to make tall trees grow.
Oranges and clementines;
share them with the people i love, made so easy by the design of nature.

the light is just bright enough for the already vivid colours to turn fluorescent;
Startling you enough for you to give in to the illusion of an almost naive optimism.

This piece I share with you, could very well be quarter of a four-leaf clover
One for you, one for me
Until the citrus turned sweet from the honey of our words.
Until the shade of the sun setting on the languid afternoon matched the fruits in our hands.
and we head home with a content heart.


Venessa Kaiser

the female body covered in stretch marks with greenery growing from the marks

By the time
you think of me again
the moon would drag
constellations across my skin
leaving scars of every intrusive
thought I held within

No one keeps bandaids
after the bruises heal
& I swear I keep pulling
you back from your grave
but I can’t seem to feel
that it was me you need to save

Wonder why I say sorry
For doing things
I should’ve been thanked for
Cause all I ever was to you
Could suddenly become a lie
Wonder where all your
Promises went
The day I chose to say goodbye.

Cause a mistake is no longer a mistake
Once it happens again
& I gave up trying on
Versions of myself
Hoping I can perhaps fit in
& Of all the times I chose to revolve
Around you before you failed to turn
I ended up having to watch
My entire world burn
So here, I stand, healing
Now that I know what caused it

this place is too empty

Nawal Naz Tareque

plane flying

The room is way too empty now.
The boom from the helicopter echoes
Along with a thousand other:
Bouts of laughter
Strums of a jumbo plucked (rougher than usual)
But silence the weight of a
Coffin lays bare.
They all come;
They all go-
What do we do with skies so blue?
Snippets of it permeate the hive minds
Bound by the language of misfits
And you’ve got a perfect group of nerds
Hard to find (these days).
Untouched souls
Resting their heads on a cool seat in Doha
The warrior laying after a hard battle in air
Anxiety drains away but,
The emptiness, the pang, the roaring thunder
Locked inside a prism of fear
Floating and colliding with the walls but unable to
Escape and reach those she seeks.
Here and now the phantoms come
“Come back to us! Don’t let go!”
But you push aside the chair and let the
Rope do the rest
So you burn your heart to ashes,
Hope they scatter far and wide among the moondust
And then you gallop towards the unknown
With everything and nothing of yours.

Urban Splashes

Fyroze Shafique

puddles of water beneath hanging clothes

When there are lies
You’ll try to even the scores
For false hopes are your traits
Deceiving flashes— your armor,
But your urban rains
In the forgetful nights
Is something to stay
Forgetful for.

The splashing of the roads
The swaying of wet clothes
The reflection of malls and billboards
The streets are the canvas
Of sighs and desires
They hold up the night, when rain plays the chords.

The heart of the town
Gets drowned by itself
The paints of glory stop acting in a while,
The people of the shadows
And the portraits of the limelight
Wish they could steal each other’s smiles.

I’m talking about rain
That falls for urban flowers,
That howls at the night of missing details
The autumn wind flows
With careful treasures,
No, city,
such a night of yours,
Never fails.

First Date at The Riot

Tanjila Akter Mim

a riot shield with roses on top

Red gashes through my flag as I lay here dying
Bleach in my hair, unruly curls flying
I saw a blue sallow
Raindrops kissing my cheeks,
Drenching my soul I thought was hollow

Came a letter from miles below
Evenings fly by, but the nights yet slow
Painted in shades of dying beasts
Written with the hunger from a thousand feasts
A reckoning of love
A sad little dove
She was alive, somewhere
A letter, not addressed
Standing together, hands outstretched

Riot, my love, riot
Let the stones know of our head
Let them know we’re defiant

They fire at us; rubber bullets
Guns ahead and crazy people by our side
Chanting hymns, living to our fullest

Sing, beloved, sing
We are outlaws
We exist to fall apart, and
I exist in the twirl of your skirt

If nothing
Touch my hair at the end of our long lonely walk
Right before you leave
Kiss me senseless at the corner of this block

Army of Roses and Irises

Santana Kamal

like samurai clans, we stand here across each other
with our army of roses and irises
cut all these ties now, let the thorns get between us
it’s no different, the pain of being stung
duets and spars, and our midair dances in a ballroom
red and black and golden
uproot the smoke of voracious lungs
spill all that you hold in your glass, as shall I
like waterfalls against days and nights
we cannot remain as we are now, so we place
our bleeding thumbs against each other’s
our fists to our heart, ardent and emboldened
awaiting to win this perilous war first

two swords crossed

3 PM

Alisha Hossain

Wake me once it has passed
Who I was but a moth,
captured in the flames of past

Here and now
I close my eyes
to drift off into a slumber
And once more I shall arise

When I am free from the bees
who carved an unwanted home, inside my brain
When I am finally at ease and alone
A place where nothing else but silence remains

as I sleep in a warped cocoon
hardly meant to hold creatures like me
despite all I could be
but ceased to become;
I am still. I am fine.
for the bees finally succumb
to a soft tune

my body at last
is put to rest
a space where the hour is frozen
and time is just grains
of golden, unmoving, sand
which shall be trapped forevermore
in this delicate hourglass

a moth in flames