Kashmir’s tehreek (resistance movement) is not just a struggle for justice, but also a struggle against forgetting. With the support and guidance of the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), I have been building this digital archive since 2017.

Every photograph we make is a document; a memory. In The Same River is not just a method of mapping the resistance movement of Kashmir but it chooses to look at the process of memorialisation of resistance from the intersection of Land, Body and Memory.

- Siva Sai Jeevanantham

Javed Ahmad was a 12-year-old student when he was arrested from his house in Pulwama, Kashmir by the Indian military apparatus (Border Security Force)- claiming that he had links with the rebels. His father Gulam Nabi Mattoo filed a Habeus Corpus petition in the High Court of Srinagar. In the inquiry report, the Honourable High Court had acknowledged that his arrest was “not authorized by law” and in various instances had quoted the BSF should have been more responsible while arresting a minor boy but still dismissed the petition. After visiting prisons and torture camps in search of their son, the family was unable to find him. The boy remains missing since 1993.

(Left) Ghulam Nabi Bhat was arrested on June 8, 1992, by the Indian Military apparatus (BSF). Ghulam Nabi’s family members were allowed to meet him when he was in custody but suddenly the family was refused permission to meet him. The BSF claimed that he had escaped from their custody. (Right) Permission receipts provided to the family to meet their son.

An excerpt from the Honourable High Court of Jammu and Kashmir’s judiciary inquiry report of Ghulam Nabi Bhat - “It appears that the stand of escape of Ghulam Nabi has been set up by the Border Security Force to avoid legal consequences.”

- High Court of Jammu and Kashmir, Srinagar

(Left) Abdul Rashid Malik was 18 years old when he was arrested from his home in Kupwara, Kashmir. His sister remembers two Intelligence Bureau officers taking him and handing him over to their battalion- 66 BSF Camp in Kupwara.

“ After Abdul’s kidnapping, our brother was psychologically affected and he usually scribbles on the walls. We tried many doctors but we couldn’t get him back to normal”.

- Saymu Rashid, Abdul Rashid’s sister

Abdul Hameed was a former Special Police Officer. He was arrested by the Task Force. He had a friend, an Indian military commander, who had visited his house many times and had spent time with his family. His family was clueless about his arrest as they believed he would be back. An old photograph of Abdul Hameed’s wife Sameera with their son Zakir Hameed and Nazrat Jan.

Abdul Rashid Parra was abducted on November 16, 2002, while he was working in his farm, remembers his wife Zeena Begum. “I never wanted to re-marry because I never believed that he was dead. I like to keep thinking of myself as half-wed and not as half-widow.”

-Zeena Begum, Abdul Rashid’s wife

“They (the graves) are there to be noticed and to make us fear them (security personnel). We all know what they are, where they are, but we cannot say so. To speak of them is treasonous.”

Based on the research conducted by the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society there are around 2700 mass graves with over 2900 bodies in Kashmir. The Mass Graves around Kashmir are chronicles of violence and violations committed by the security forces.

An excerpt from the research paper - Buried Evidence: Unknown, Unmarked, and Mass Graves in Indian-administered Kashmir a preliminary report.

“ On 22/02/2019, in the dead of night at around 03:00 am, a joint team of forces from Police Post Chogul and SOG men knocked at our door. I opened the door and saw the DO of the concerned Police Post. He asked me about my father in a polite manner and told me that he is to be detained for some time. They picked him up and took him to Police Post Chogul. As we were aware of the ban of Jamaat Islami and subsequent detention of the said activists, we thought it to be a result of the same.”

“ On 22/12/2019, I along with the policeman namely, Irfan Ahmad went to the Central Jail, Allahabad. He talked to the people at the gate and was told that my father is not in the jail and has been shifted to the Police Station adjacent to the Allahabad jail. As soon as I entered the police station one of the cops directed me by his hand towards a bathroom-sized room and told me that my father is there. As I entered the room I found my father dead in a miserably bad position. I was terrified and shocked to come to terms. I couldn’t understand what had happened to him, as he had no health issue at home. Nobody there told me about the cause of his death. I saw him in the same clothes as I had seen him the last time I visited him in the Police Post Chogul. His body was kept in a very bad shape as if some animals carcass was lying on the roadside. He had been wearing a sweater of the size of a child. I requested the JK Policemen to help me in cleaning the body of my father. While undressing him I saw his left arm fractured and turned blue and black. His left leg was also fractured. His clothes were torn. His body was tortured, as was evident from the condition of the body”

“On 14:30 hrs, a post mortem was conducted on him and the body was torn again. All this was psychological torture to me. Who can bear the pain of his father first being tortured and then his body torn out?”

“Take this photo with you sir, show it to the world, my father has gone through so much torture; he is at peace now but we are not.”

Only existing family photo of Bashir Ahmad’s family. Government officials have encircled the faces in order to verify their identity to sanction the ex-gratia amount as ordered by the State Human Rights Council for Bashir’s disappearance.

Family Photographs become forensic evidence in Kashmir. In the absence of the victim, the photographs take multiple forms. The above is a photocopy of a half-burnt photograph - the Indian military burnt a copy of the documents the family possessed. This half-burnt photograph was then photocopied to preserve it. The families of the victims in Kashmir often make multiple copies of these documents to preserve them from such incidents and in time these documents grow in the absence of the victim.

Cut out from the family portraits - (Left) Bashrat Salem Parray was 18 years old when he disappeared- He was returning to his home in Sonwar, Srinagar, after his evening prayers in a mosque near his house. Witnesses on the street claimed that he was taken away by the military. While the military reported that he was killed when he tried to cross the Line of Control to enter Pakistan, his photograph was not found in the army’s list of encountered people near the border.

Cut out from the family portraits - (Left) Bashrat Salem Parray was 18 years old when he disappeared- He was returning to his home in Sonwar, Srinagar, after his evening prayers in a mosque near his house. Witnesses on the street claimed that he was taken away by the military. While the military reported that he was killed when he tried to cross the Line of Control to enter Pakistan, his photograph was not found in the army’s list of encountered people near the border.

Some families didn’t have proper family photographs, so they make a collage of their individual photographs after the abduction of the person. When they make the new family photograph, the disappeared person is pasted onto their new photograph. That shows how important their memory is; to believe that their loved one is still alive somewhere in some prison.

The first documented image of Irfan Ahmad Khan, a victim of enforced disappearances in Kashmir. While searching for their missing son their parents were informed by the Police Control Room, Srinagar, that he was taken away by 20 Rashtriya Rifles 7 Jat Battalion of Indian Army. Irfan was 14 years old when he disappeared from school. When their parents visited the school, the peon informed them that he was taken away by some unknown person. According to his sister, Irfan’s father Habibullah tried to file a First Information Report but the army trespassed and raided their house. He was taken in custody for a month and tortured in a tourist place turned torture centre Hari Niwas and released later.

“What heart is that which doesn’t pray to be with you, God forbid, Shall I be away from you and alive, never let that happen!”

About the artist

Siva Sai Jeevanantham is a 26-year-old documentary photographer based in Chennai, India. Through his personal and documentary practice, he intends to create cognitive dissonance in human minds. The idea of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ has always intrigued him, and his work refuses to conform to this binary. Exploring the grey area of human righteousness based on subjective relativism is something that he aims to achieve through his practice.

In his recent work ‘In the same river,’ he discusses the importance of memory in resistance movement using the family photographs of victims of enforced disappearances in India-controlled Kashmir. In September 2019, this project received a long term photography grant from the Indian Photography Festival, Hyderabad. ‘In the same river’ was also exhibited in a slideshow event, curated by NayanTara Gurung Kakshapati, Co-Founder & Director of Photocircle at Angkor Photo Festival 2019. It will also be part of the 2020 edition of Blurring the lines curated by Steve Bisson, Lisanne van Happen & John Fleetwood.

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