Writing is on the wall in Kashmir: Graffiti takes political colour
A set of pro-Pakistani graffiti was spotted on a stretch of a wall in downtown Srinagar, the older part of the city known for its architectural splendour and violent protests every Friday, ahead of the India-Pakistan T20 match at Mirpur last Sunday.
In big, bold red letters was written the following: “Kashmiri Hearts Bleeds Only for Pakistan” and “Go Indian Dogs Go Back”.
A few metres away, on a pale yellow wall lies written in blue letters: “Burhan our Hizb hero” – a reference to the 23-year-old Hizbul Mujahideen commander, whose claim to fame lies in his use of social media to encourage youth to join militant ranks.
These are not the only ‘writings on the wall’ that you see downtown. The shouting of alleged “anti-India” slogans at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University has snowballed into a major national controversy, but many such slogans – and even more ‘provocative’ ones – can be found spray painted in black or red ink on the walls of Srinagar’s buildings or the shutters of shops.
Take a stroll through the labyrinth of narrow lanes around the famous Jamia Masjid – which becomes the epicentre of the routine Friday protests – and you will see numerous such graffiti. There are writings hailing the acts of the Islamic State, the Hizbul Mujahideen, the Taliban and asking India to “go back”.
Drawn mostly at the dead of the night, the creators of such graffiti remain anonymous and untraceable.
The separatist leadership of the Valley perceives the graffiti as the “pouring out of the inner emotions of the common Kashmiris”.
Ayaz Akbar, spokesperson of the hardliner Hurriyat (G) faction, told Hindustan Times culture of graffiti and spray painting pro-Azaadi sentiments on the walls of Srinagar saw a huge peak during the massive civilian uprisings of 2008-10, when people saw “how many, many young people fell victims to the bullets of the Indian forces”.
“These writings are the actual ‘writings on the wall’. Is Delhi able to read it?” Akbar added.
But many condemn the pro-Islamic State or pro-Taliban writings saying that the activities of those groups “have nothing in common with the separatist movement of Kashmir”.
“The anti-India sentiments expressed on the walls are political but the pro-Islamic State writings paint a very radical picture of Kashmir. No one knows who do it, and no one takes responsibility,” said a resident of downtown Srinagar, who didn’t wish to be named.
Police agree that such graffiti are ‘seditious’ but the problem lies in catching the people who paint them.
“We can’t take action unless we find who wrote these things. It’s very difficult to catch these guys, but whenever we can we will take strict action,” Syed Javaid Mujtaba Gillani, inspector general of police, Kashmir range, told HT.