On the ground

Scenes from Anantnag: Broken glass, broken bodies, broken mothers

The South Kashmir district braved shortages of hospital supplies and even baby food.

At night, the road to South Kashmir is filled with tiny shards of glass and rocks. Armed troops dot the area.

It is possible to travel to Anantnag district only at night, for this is when a strict dawn-to-dusk curfew is lifted.

The district, which lies 56 km south of state capital Srinagar, was put under curfew almost two weeks ago after popular Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani was killed in an encounter on July 8 that led to widespread protests and a crackdown by government forces.

So far, paramilitary forces and the police have killed 50 people in Kashmir and injured at least 3,000. Around 600 people have received metal pellet injuries. Many have been struck in the eye, and could lose their eyesight.

South Kashmir is the stronghold of the Peoples Democratic Party, which is ruling the state in alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Mehbooba Mufti was Member of Parliament from the Anantnag Lok Sabha seat but after her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed died in January, and she took over as chief minister, she contested from her father’s Anantnag Assembly seat, and won handsomely.

The protests start

After hearing Wani was killed, people in Anantnag town took out a procession to the district hospital, expecting that his body would be brought there from Kokernag – 30 km away – where he was shot dead along with two other militants.

But the body was not brought here.

People then came on to the roads in the town, rallying in support of Wani, and clashing with forces till the early hours of morning. Angry youth brought down a camera tower in the main square.

As per reports, 16 people have been killed in Anantnag district, and at least 500 injured. Of the injured, 86 were hit by bullets, 257 had multiple pellet injuries and 153 were injured due to tear gas or beatings by security forces.

Fallen brothers

On July 9, a bullet fired by a policeman in Achabal pierced 14-year-old Saqib Manzoor Mir’s skull. He was among the first to be killed during the ongoing protests. Mir was a Class 9 student and the youngest of Shakeela Banu’s three sons.

Mir’s older brother, Junaid Manzoor Mir, only came to know that his younger sibling had been killed 12 days later, when he returned home from Pahalgam, where he had gone on work.

Speaking at his home in Kundru village, after returning from the district hospital, where he had taken his mother, Junaid Manzoor Mir is struggling to come to terms with the absence of his brother. “I was missing home and it was shutdown also, so I decided to visit my family,” he said. “I had no idea this had happened.”

The path to Takia Bohramshah village near the National Highway is bordered by paddy fields. This is where 20-year-old Hilal Ahmad Dar was killed allegedly by Special Task Force personnel. The spot where Dar fell is now demarcated as a memorial.

In the recent Anantnag Assembly elections, Dar’s father had voted for Mehbooba Mufti. On asking about the chief minister, Dar’s older brother, Ashiq Hussain Dar said: “For us, a black dog is no different than a white dog.”

Hospital scene

In the absence of public transport, patients and attendants at the Anantnag district hospital waited outside the building for ambulances to ferry them to Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences in Srinagar.

The windows of an ambulance parked close by were broken as were the windows of one of the hospital buildings. A boy with metal pellets in his chest and face, carrying an X-ray, waited to be examined by a doctor.

“In the last 10 days, we have had 144 injured, among whom 30 had bullet injuries, and seven people were brought dead,” said Abdul Majeed Miraab, medical superintendent of the district hospital. “When troops are relieved from duty on roads, injured people start pouring in,” he said. “Our ambulances have been attacked by the CRPF men on the way to Srinagar.”

Bashir Ahmad, the controller of the store and ambulances at the district hospital, said of five ambulances at the hospital, Central Reserve Police Force personnel had attacked three. “The ambulances were ferrying the injured so the CRPF men think the injured are stone throwers and attack them,” he said. “Youth didn’t do anything, it is only CRPF attacking the ambulances.”

Life under curfew

In the last two weeks, Anantnag and its adjacent areas have been cut off from the rest of the Valley. But the isolation isn’t just due to the curfew. The day after Wani’s killing, mobile phones and Internet were suspended in the whole South Kashmir and remain cut.

Nadeem Reshi, a resident of the old town in Anantnag, said that the first few days of curfew were so strict that even baby food couldn’t be sourced.

Even the district hospital ran short of medicines. “The hospital was short of antibiotic drugs and blood,” said Reshi. “No one was allowed to move out. Last Friday, prayers were not allowed in the main grand mosque, and at other mosques only older people were allowed. If people from adjacent villages were bringing milk or vegetables to town, they were not allowed.”

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

Play

This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.