Kashmir, Ather Zia, Srinagar, Critical Kashmir Studies, graffiti, insanity, politics, bund, Dogra, Jehlum River, Anthropology of Policy, Instagram

this summer a seemingly incoherent graffiti featured on most walls along the embankment around the Jehlum river, known as the “bund.” this bund was first built a century back by the despotic Dogra rulers to ensure the safety of the British Residency and their bungalows from floods. these days the bund is riddled with a heavy presence of soldiers; concertina wire, bunkers and lookout posts. interestingly political graffiti is also abundant. i chanced upon the artist of this particular graffiti artist one day. raggedy clothes, wild hair; his demeanor suggested mental instability. he drew with charcoal pieces that are used for warmth in winter. calmly he expressed himself on the white walls. a concatenation of English alphabets that seemingly meant nothing, hybrid animals: cows with snouts, box-like torsos, circles with tails, and one funnily showed defecation. it was easy to disregard his graffiti as nothing but ministrations of an unstable mind. Kashmir has seen too many suffer mental health issues in the past 27 years. most continue living with undiagnosed PTSD, the fall-out of a brutal low intensity war. many Kashmiris have been rendered unstable due to incarceration, harassment and torture at the hands of Indian troops. i do not know this graffiti artist’s story but the words he strings together in this picture are telling: out of all the incoherency you can make out the words ARMY. this word spelled so correctly, more or less summed up what his pictographic commentary was about as he walked to and fro the bund almost everyday. it seems even insanity is political in Kashmir. – Ather Zia

Image (c) Ather Zia 2016. Originally posted on ASAP Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/p/BI0QygmBvqH/?taken-by=anthofpolicy

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