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[Excerpts] Kashmir: Paradise Lost [Quick Read]
by Saima Alvi
26 May 2002 10:36 UTC
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KASHMIR: Paradise Lost

The following is an excerpt from the book "KASHMIR: Paradise Lost" by 
Martin A. Sugarman 

"In late Novermber, 1993, I visited Kashmir to document the social and 
political turmoil and the massive human rights abuses there. Due to the 
government of India's restrictions on journalists visiting the area, I 
applied for tourist visa an found the means and assistance to work 
undercover for a month of so before the Indian authorities learned of my 
true purpose. Under very threatening conditions, I managed to escape with 
all my film and interviews. Unlike Vietnam or Bosnia, the media has failed 
in Kashmir for not getting the horrifying story out. I hope this work will 
spark interest in the media to expose this tragic situation to the world" 

"Compared to Bosnia, the people in Kashmir have been assigned a crueler 
fate. In Bosnia there are designated "safe havens." areas kept under the 
watchful eyes of the United Nations, Western powers and international 
media. In Kashmir, there are no safe havens and almost no witnesses to the 
systematic killing of the civilian population." 

"Some Kashmiris have fled from the violence in Indian-occuipied kahsmir to 
the refugee camps in Azad Kashmir, an area on the Pakistan border. Their 
stories attest to the terrors left behind. Twenty-year old Akhtar Khan, a 
refugee from a village in the district of Kupwara, gave this account: 

I was a merchant. I had no ties to the militants. My village came under 
crackdown, the Indian security forces dragged me off to interrogated. Tehy 
tortured me for ten days. Tehy wanted to know about the militants. I had 
nothing to tell. Tehy said, "so you want freedom," and then they cut my 
foot off and threw me on the road. Some villagers were fleeing acress the 
border. They picked me up and carried me on their back over the snow-
covered mountains to Azad Kashmir, where I received medical treatment. here 
in Azad Kashmir, I have food and a place to live. I received medical 
treatment here at no cost. I appreciate the help we are getting here, but I 
want to go back home. I still want freedom. They cut one piece of my body. 
They can divide my whole body, but I still want freedom. 

This book is full of picture of Men , women and children killed and 
mutalated by Indians. It also shows whole vilages bombed by Indians. 

By Martin A. Sugarman. Sugarman Productions, 1994, 144 pp. 140 plates. 
List: $32.95; AET: $24.95.




[Book Reviews]: Kashmir: Paradise Lost

By Martin A. Sugarman. Sugarman Productions, 1994, 144 pp. 140 plates. 
List: $32.95; AET: $24.95.

Reviewed by Rafique Kathwari

John Milton's words, "No light, but rather darkness visible" serve as a 
caption for the opening paragraph. A young boy clenching his lips walks 
briskly under an ashen sky, the shell-struck rubble of brick buildings and 
corrugated tin littering his path as smoke rises in the background. This 
could be the Balkans but for the clothes the boy is wearing—plaid pants and 
the unmistakable pharen (a loosely tailored cape)—that define the geography 
of the shot. It sets the tone for this brave book of black-and-white 
photographs by Martin Sugarman, a respected independent journalist who 
recently visited both parts of Kashmir: the Valley, controlled by India, 
and "Azad" (Free) Kashmir, under Pakistan's control. 

Sugarman's photographs show the death and destruction wrought by over four 
years of India's brutal response to the armed militancy of Kashmiri youth 
seeking independence. Thirty thousand men, women and children have died in 
Kashmir during the past four years, 10 times more than have died in 
Northern Ireland during the past 25.

It is not only a lost paradise, but also a loss of innocence that Sugarman 
portrays. Such losses are captured, and framed, in a self-explanatory 
moment, evoking the French master of photography Henri-Cartier Bresson. 

The many photographs of children are the most compelling. A boy stands by 
his father's grave, his hand resting on the grave marker as he looks 
fiercely straight at the lens. A boy with a gunshot wound being treated at 
the Bone and Joint Hospital, Srinagar, throws his head back in an agonized 
scream; a naked emaciated child lying in a hospital bed stares blankly at 
the ceiling; a rag serves as a diaper for a wounded infant with bandaged 
eyes at the Children's Hospital.

Interspersed with this Miltonian darkness are haunting visions of paradise. 
Lonely Shikaras (gondolas) with heart-shaped oars moored under a grand 
Chinar on the banks of the Dal Lake; terraced rice fields fenced by naked 
poplars, their tips touching the horizon; young girls dancing on the 
pebbled shores of Gandarbal Lake; the head groundskeeper at the Shalimar 
Gardens offering the photographer flowers. 

Aside from several pages of editorial introduction at the beginning of the 
book, there is no text other than a one-line caption for each photograph. 
Ruins of ancient Hindu temples stand beside burned-out Muslim mosques. A 
street vendor sells pomegranates near an Indian army bunker. 

You must involve your own emotions and read into the photographs what you 
will, for they tell a thousand tales. For instance, just one photograph 
tells the entire story of 45 years of economic progress and social 
development in Kashmir under India's control: in a room that is barely nine 
feet wide, daylight filters through two windows at either end. Steel-rimmed 
twin beds rest underneath each window. There are plastic sheets on the 
beds, but no pillows. Two steel nightstands separate the beds. One 
nightstand is dented, and both are heavily rusted. The strip-sign on the 
dirt-stained, bare wall between the windows reads, in Urdu, "Smoking is not 
permitted," and the book's photo caption reads, "Intensive care unit, 
S.M.H.S. Hospital, Srinagar."

Sugarman uses his shutter-release finger effectively, having put his own 
life in grave danger to bring the stark reality of heaven and hell home for 
all freedom-loving people everywhere. It all is here: faith, hope, beauty, 
tragedy. The eyes speak more eloquently than the lips.

Rafique Kathwari is a Kashmiri-American businessman who has lived in the 
New York City area for the past two decades.

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