venerdì 12 luglio 2013


The Himalayan region of Kashmir, nestled between India and Pakistan, has been called “a paradise on earth” ever since the 16th century when Mughal emperors discovered its pristine beauty and made it their summer capital.
Today Kashmir is more famous for being one of the world's most dangerous places, a potential nuclear flashpoint. There was a time not long ago when i twas known for its poets and writers more than its gunmen. Even in 1947, during partition, extremism never had a place in Kashmir and many attribute it to the fact that Islam was brought through the gentle persuasion of Sufi saints who always emphasized humanism and tolerance.
Sadly, this gentle spirit is being lost as two nations wage war over the small piece of land nestled like a pearl in a tumultuous region. India and Pakistan have shaped their foreign policies around events in Kashmir and the result is over 80,000 lives lost, mostly native Kashmiris, in the last 15 years alone, and a region under siege.
Srinagar, the summer capital now lies neglected and pockmarked with craters. Hotels have been turned into barracks, guns peek out behind broken glass windows and netting protects bleary-eyed soldiers from the frequent grenade attacks. The surrounding mountains, once lush and dotted with delightful Alpine cottages, sit quietly as structures deteriorate and collapse. Misery is the keystone to the Kashmiris’ way of life and the new generation, overwhelmed by anger, hatred and confusion, have only heard the language of the gun. The gaping hole of years of conflict have been filled with the corpses of young men and those spaces that remain free are being filled by a whole new generation who are turning away from moderate Islam. With close to 700,000 men in uniform in the Kashmir Valley and an unending death toll listed prominently on the front page of every daily newspaper in Kashmir, the unique richness of Kashmir's history and culture can only be revived by looking towards its peaceful past.
I wanted to understand Kashmir and delve below the reflections in its still lakes. The mountains were mirrored perfectly until the oar hit the water, a crack rippled through the reflection and one began to sense that all is not what it seems. These photographs are dedicated to all those who have died and to those that are living in the shadows of those deaths.

clip_image001 Kashmir India Kashmir clip_image004 Henna is applied to the hands and feet of a bride before her engagement ceremony in Srinagar, the summer capital of Kashmir.India KashmirA Kashmir woman watches the famous Sufi Saint  from outside his fence in the hopes that he will answer some of her prayers and give her spiritual guidance in the village of Sopore, August 19, 2002. Though the majority of Kashmiri people are Muslim, there is also a strong legacy of Sufism in the region. This has created a special brand of Islam throughout the Himalayan area.India KashmirHundreds of  villagers sit  outside their homes after Indian soldiers search for a militant, March 28, 2002  in Budgam district west of Srinagar. The militant hid in a mosque in a 20-hour siege. It was the fourth time in two months that separatists had sought refuge in a mosque in the Himalayan region. <br />India PakistanIndia PakistanA Kashmiri man paddles to a floating market in the early freezing temperatures before sunrise on Dal Lake in the summer capital of Kashmir, Srinagar India, November 24. In the background, echoing through the nearby mountains, gunshots and fighting could be heard. Kashmir was once a tourist hotspot but now vendors struggle to survive in a place that has seen nearly 1000 civilians killed this year alone and 1,765 wounded in a brutal conflict that the United Nations calls the most dangerous place in the world.  clip_image013
All images  © Ami Vitale


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