Ahead of January 26 Kashmir sees heightened security measures and curbs on movement, expected in a land marked with a two-decade-long armed separatism against the Indian state.
A set of three cartoons--that are recently doing the rounds on social media--explain the situation concisely. Images created over the last few years by prominent Srinagar-based cartoonist Mir Suhail Qadiri have been shared widely on Facebook and Twitter.
The first cartoon in the series titled ‘Kashmir on R-Day eve’ shows Kashmiri heads walking across Srinagar’s commercial hub of Lal Chowk being turned into identity cards. Simultaneously, several security personnel are seen.
“The cartoon shows how in the eyes of the security forces we are I-cards. Everyone is a suspect in a conflict zone like Kashmir in the eyes of the police or paramilitary forces,” says Qadiri, explaining the cartoon.
For Qadiri (26), who has worked with number Srinagar-based publications and on assignment basis with Caravan magazine, art is not only a political tool but something that ensures he maintains his sanity.
Arif Ayaz Parray, an art commentator, recently commented on Qadiri’s work that it’s an attempt “…to make the ordinary extraordinary.”
“I had gone into depression after boys my age were killed during protests in 2008-2009, I have recovered only with the help of expressing my anguish through art,” says Qadiri, who now works with the local English daily, Rising Kashmir.
The second R-Day cartoon questions how ‘the government says it’s helping Kashmiris by doing things that’s detrimental to them.’
The image shows how a pigeon’s feathers were stripped away while passing through the security scanner. As the forlorn pigeon walks out, security personnel say ‘It’s for your peace.’
“You know that ‘sorry for the inconvenience’ phrase is an absolute farce,” Qadiri says.
He adds, “I have to show what I see, have to draw my and the society’s truth. I talk to people, connect with them and document their truth. If the reality of Kashmir is barbed wire, then should our art be of almond trees and meadows?” Qadiri asked.
The third cartoon shows how the administration, (in the picture governor NN Vohra) did not jam mobile networks during the R-Day celebrations.
Qadiri’s cartoon shows that as leaders release pigeon’s to as a symbol of peace on Republic Day, Vohra’s pigeons metamorphosed into mobile phones with actual wings.
“Jamming of mobile networks and internet connections are a common tactic to check the spread of propaganda. Every year, during R-Day celebrations, networks were continuously jammed. But last year that didn’t happen. It was a good thing,” Qadiri says.
Qadiri says for political cartoonists, social media provides an outlet to create image of Kashmir for an international audience.
“Kashmiri newspapers are not read by people outside, but if one develops a social media fan following then he can push these barriers and reach out to the world.”