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War/Conflict, War
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South Asia
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Kashmir, India, Pakistan
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A journey inside the struggle of the Kashmiri people trapped in an endless winter of suffering waiting for the spring of azadi, freedom.
Camillo Pasquarelli

2017 — student award of excellence

Friday afternoon. The prayer is just ended and the devotees turn away from Jamia Masjiid, the main mosque in Srinagar, the summer capital of the state Jammu and Kashmir. The Indian army troops are deployed at the entrances and observe the young boys covering their faces. Within a few minutes the air becomes unbreathable. Numerous stun grenades explodes. From the shadows amid the clouds of tear gas raises a voice: "what do we want?" Hundreds of shadows answer vehemently: "azadi! azadi! "- "Freedom! Freedom!" - the main slogan of the Kashmiri separatism. The message is delivered to the Indian invaders along with a shower of stones every Friday afternoon.

The young stone throwers grew up during the 90s, when an armed insurgency against the indian government was bloodily suppressed by the army. They witnessed brutal violence since they opened their eyes, therefore in the heart of this generation there is no doubt: India is carrying out an unlawful occupation, only possible thanks to the 600.000 troops that make Kashmir one of the most militarized zones in the world.

In the summer of 2016, the anger erupted again because of the death of Burhan Wani, the popular commander of a separatist armed group, killed by indian troops. A new season of protests, repression and martyrs ended without concrete results but with 90 dead and thousands injured.In Srinagar, disillusionment is in the air; new tombstones fill the graveyards and fighting with the stones seems no longer enough. Burhan Wani has become a central symbol of kashmiri struggle and now many young boys seem to be ready to follow his path.

This project started in 2015 during my fieldwork in the region where i spent 5 months for my final dissertation in Anthropology. I came back in the summer of 2016 to cover the anti-indian uprising. The screaming of the Kashmiri people need to be hear not only because this is one of the longest and bloodiest conflict - since 1990 around 60,000 people died and 10,000 disappeared – but also because all the stakeholders and player involved seem not willing to solve the problem. A true and deep international awareness about the Kashmir issue is needed more than ever, before a new armed rebellion starts.

At this point of the project i want to go back in the valley and go deep inside the perception of the young generation. Explore the south of the region, the stronghold of the 2016 uprising and armed groups, and also the area close to the Pakistan border. I want to explore the small villages, outside the cities of the region, to discover their point view about the struggle, their way of fighting. I will visit a clinic of mental disease where people who were victims in the 90’s are hospitalized. I will tell the story of a group of boys who play Parkour as a form of resistance. I’m already met them in 2015.
Because of my long previous staying in the region i’m in close contact with many local journalists and news papers and the human rights association Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society and Association of Parents and Disappeared Person.

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The imam leads the prayer on the road as a sign of protest against the indian occupation. Camillo Pasquarelli/Alexia Foundation
A group of boys swims in the Dal Lake, the only safe and free area during the curfew. Camillo Pasquarelli/Alexia Foundation
Young boys screaming separatist slogan during a march. Camillo Pasquarelli/Alexia Foundation
Indian paramilitaries patrol the streets of the city. Camillo Pasquarelli/Alexia Foundation
A young boy during the stone-throwing. Camillo Pasquarelli/Alexia Foundation
A man prays among the tombstones of the martyrs graveyard. Camillo Pasquarelli/Alexia Foundation
Sameer, 22, was hit by two bullets during a stone-throwing in 2010. Of humble origins, today, to marry the girl he loves, he was asked to find a good job. A local politician answered to his call for help like this: "the only job you can do is in the police, because you are one who knows the stone-throwing." Camillo Pasquarelli/Alexia Foundation
A group of women pray in front of the Jamia Masjiid, the main mosque in Srinagar. Each and every corner of the city is covered with barbed wire. Camillo Pasquarelli/Alexia Foundation
A little girl holds in her hands a toy gun. Camillo Pasquarelli/Alexia Foundation
After the Friday prayer, three men check the situation of the old city of Srinagar from the windows of Maqdoom sahib, a sufi shrine. This is the moment when usually the clashes between the kashmiri people and the security forces start. Camillo Pasquarelli/Alexia Foundation