On the morning of 5 August 2019, Masrat Zahra, a young Kashmiri photojournalist, woke up confused. Her phone was not working and the street outside her house looked eerily different. Soon, she learnt that the Narendra Modi-led union government had abrogated Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and split the state into two union territories. From that day till at least 30 August, Zahra went out almost every day to shoot in Kashmir to document the restrictions on movement and communication that the government had imposed, reactions to the move and its human cost. The photographs featured in the gallery are a selection of her work from this time.
In the last week of August, Zahra visited Delhi for a brief period of time to get her pictures published. During her visit, she spoke to Tanvi Mishra and Shahid Tantray, the creative director and the assistant photo editor of The Caravan, about being a woman photojournalist in Kashmir, and dealing with the shackles of state and patriarchy, especially since 5 August.
I have been working as a photojournalist in Kashmir for three years now. There are few women photojournalists in Kashmir. People react differently to seeing men and women cover the same clashes in Kashmir. The first time I went to cover clashes in Kashmir’s Jamia area on a Friday, a boy came up to me and said, “Didi, didi, aap chale jao, aapko lagegi”—please leave, you will get hurt. He added that it is a man’s job to cover such clashes. When I went back home, I wondered that if a woman can get wounded, can’t men get hurt too? Do men not bleed?