Kashmir, Ather Zia, Srinagar, Critical Kashmir Studies, rickshaw, transportation, Anthropology of Policy, Instagram

This is an auto-rickshaw; a noisy vehicular contraption, with two-passenger space. See the words painted on the back – confusion, spartan, hope, wrong. The young auto-drivers can be very “emo,” using their vehicles as a turf to express angst and attitude. They delightfully decorate the inside with film posters, plastic flowers; rexine upholstery painted with urdu and Kashmiri poetry. Often politically savvy, as well as political like most Kashmiris they will provide meaningful insights into history, polity, and future of Kashmir. Their “word-on-the-street” analysis is a better barometer than media. Be ready to be politically enlightened if you spur them. The auto-stand, where the drivers wait for passengers often becomes a neighborhood hub for banter and serious political debates. Relatively cheap auto-rickshaw will take you just about anywhere; even where it is not designed to go. I saw a resourceful auto-driver going uphill and if this was not enough, he carried 4 passengers, a baby and a sack of onions. In the early 90’s the auto-drivers were the most persecuted demographic. The drivers were often suspected as being conduits for resistance activities. The autos could only have one of the two doors, so that the soldiers could have an open view. Even today many auto-drivers become easy prey for the Indian troops. In the current uprising that started on 8th July 2016 the first person killed was also an auto-driver. Present on the street, he was trying to save a wounded boy when the Indian forces fired upon him. Driving cannot get more political than that – Ather Zia

Image (c) Ather Zia 2016. Originally posted on ASAP Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/p/BI-NEs-hCy9/?taken-by=anthofpolicy

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