(By Saadut Hussain)
I was always fascinated by photographs. They capture details that you would miss in the first glance, stories that gradually grow larger than the frame. I may have never been good at clicking photographs but I mesmerized them well, archiving the seen and unseen details behind these still frames. All my travels have been on hard earned money; hence the only souvenirs I took from these travels were some captured moments, stories via lenses and not any paper tags.
During the July of 2014, Gaza was attacked mercilessly by Israel and the images coming out of Gaza seemed too horrific for human comprehension. Schools bombed, children maimed, neighborhoods decimated with such impunity. Just some months later, identical images were repeated, only places changed. Horrid and gruesome images from Aleppo, Homs, Al Qusayr, Al Bab, Azaz, Douma, Daraya, Yabrud, Idlib … across Syria.
From 2014, I remember this picture of bare hand Palestinians extracting human bodies from the rubble of collapsed structures, smoke bellowing behind them, from still burning buildings. Windows hanging like linen over collapsed concrete, skeleton shaped twisted iron that drew ugly shapes by explosive force. There was this picture of a half dead man, his face all covered with sooth and ash, being evacuated from a pile of cement dust and falling debris. The dust of what once used to be his home and now lay decimated, must have camouflaged his emotions and tears. Then I remember an almost identical picture from Syria; two kids most probably siblings, a girl and a boy, smothered in war dust, walking past a burning car and collapsed buildings, both in tears, consoling self and not knowing where to go. Who knows if their parents even survived this tragedy, or if these kids ever did make an escape from Syria.
And then I am reminded of Sopore of 1993, the fateful day of 6th January. Did civilians get any time to flee when indiscriminate fire was opened fire innocent civilians in the Sopore market that day at 10:30 AM? In the picture of the Aleppo burning vehicles, I could visualize the local bus coming from Bandipora to Sopore that fateful morning, then being stopped near Sopore and indiscriminately fired at. Where could these people have fled to, from inside this locked and surrounded bus?
With no escape and no hope of life, could any frame have captured emotions of these victims, for some their last ones?
When they sprinkled gunpowder over the Sopore market, locking shutters to shut innocent lives behind with no escape route, I could imagine the frames of Gaza, where fire and bombs rained over habitations, caging and consuming them. In Sopore fire and destruction came from all sides of land, charring people and decimating a town. I imagined fathers dying in the arms of their sons, suffocated or burnt to ash locked in their shops and homes, while the killers outside made a glee of murder. The pictures of Syria, with civilians dismembered, scattered across falling debris, again conjured images of Sopore where many victims were buried in more than one graves, their body parts having been found days apart.
Another picture of Gaza stands etched in my memory, two girls, probably sisters, fearful faces, bare footed, walking hand in hand, the younger following the elder, over piles of rubble, the younger terrifyingly looking at something ahead of her, beyond the frame of the photograph. As if their tormentor was somewhere ahead of them and these little girls were gathering all strength to walk past.
This picture drew in my imagination, more frames of Sopore after that fateful January, images of how little children and kin of victims would have had to walk past these tormentors each passing day, knowing that these very assassins of their loved ones walked free and continued to oppress and intimidate.
These local people endured because they had nowhere to flee to, nowhere to migrate. The mainland did not want us and its barrel would not want us live at home. Because for the power corridors beyond the Vale, we the Kashmiri Muslims, are in direct conflict with their ethno-political and politico-religious goals. We were, and are, the unwanted burden of our own land.
I will not quote Kafka, Sartre or Munro, because none of them ever lived in our cage. Neither am I comparing the scale of Aleppo or Gaza with Sopore (or Kashmir), that canvas is too big compared to us.
But whatever the frame size, all of them speak of the same pain, of human loss. Tragedy is that our loss, the loss of Sopore, of Aleppo and Gaza lies unheard because we have not known how to sell victimhood.
P.S : For Sopore massacre of January 1993 (which left 55 civilians dead and hundreds maimed for life) read reports in TIME and The Independent.