Chinar leaves, snow-capped Himalayas, lush greenery, the Dal lake and its shikaras, and the smell of zaffran. All you need to add is the eternal cliché: “paradise on earth”.

Now, the chinar leaves have been replaced by barbed wires, the Himalayas with army barracks, the greenery with the uniforms of armed forces, and the smell of zaffran with a sense of tension. Paradise is under curfew, its serenity cut open by conflict.

That’s the reality of Kashmir that students of Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia University’s AJK Mass Communication Research Centre wanted to convey through their sand animation titled Zaroorat Nahi (video above). The animation depicts the story of a near-utopian land, tainted with colonial politics and turned into “a battleground for contemporary politics and militancy between the two countries which were once one.”

“The idea behind the video is to visually depict the hardships faced by Kashmiris and about the state of affairs there,” Atul Sinha, the course coordinator for the animation program at AJK MCRC under whose guidance the video was made, told “The whole idea was not to point fingers at anyone but to draw a parallel between Kashmir as it was and as it is now.”

The video was a collaborative effort by 23 students who are studying for an MA in Visual Effects and Animations. The idea was propelled by Hujjat Kurmani and Manan Khan’s song Zarurat Nahi, with Kashmiri poetry by Zareef Ahmed Zareef being added as the foundation for the animation. As the lyrics remind us, “Sab surkh hain, sadke yahan; barf bhi hoti nahi, ab yahan.” (Everything is stained with blood; even the snow doesn’t fall here anymore.)

Sinha confessed that though the students were hesitant at first to tackle a topic as sensitive and volatile as Kashmir – several were also unaware of the hardships there – the idea soon took shape (literally) and was completed within a month.

The students also released a behind-the-scenes video to explain how the video was made.