Why They Write
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"Writing might not be the bravest thing a young man can do" in Kashmir. But at informal workshops and on the Web, young Kashmiris are learning to write, for reasons both personal and political. We bring you five voices on why they write
Somewhere in Naseem Bagh, Srinagar, dense with the chinar's autumn leaves, the Kashmirwalla stirs. He is writing. He writes because he wants to tell other Kashmiris, and the world, that not every Kashmiri carries a gun. He writes because he too has lost relatives in the conflict. He writes because he missed his final university exam as the security officers refused to accept his examination admit card as a curfew pass. He is Fahad Shah, 21, founder and editor of The Kashmir Walla, a monthly online magazine, which tells stories of Kashmir. Fahad started The Kashmir Walla as a blog in early 2009, and in April this year, he turned it into a theme-based monthly online magazine. The most recent issue on Kashmir Pandits "living again in peace" got 16,000 hits on the first day.
Sanjay Kak, editor of Until My Freedom Has Come: The New Intifada in Kashmir, says that in 2009-10 he noticed how the rumblings of blogs and Facebook were pushing mainstream media in a more introspective direction. Other Fahads, writing in this alternative space, have emerged from Kashmir of late. In their late teens and early twenties, some have forsaken conventional careers, in engineering, for example, for one of journalism. Shafaq Shah, a journalism student, whose role models include Barkha Dutt and Karan Thapar, says, "It's hard for a girl to go out in Kashmir after 8 or 9pm. My journalism teacher had to leave journalism because people used to taunt her. That affects you." Rifat Rathore, however, believes that with mindsets evolving, girls now have a space, which had been denied. Despite the opposition, Shafaq writes because she wants to reveal. "I hate violence. People might think it is patriotic, but it is not," she says. These young writers write because they have something to say. And they are quickly learning how to write.