Human Rights Situation
in Kashmir Through the eyes of a Painter
Dr. Sharad K. SoniKashmir
which was once a shining example of peaceful co-existence and had earned
the fame as the very symbol of secularism in India has been rattled by
the dark and evil forces of terrorist violence unleashed by the Islamic
fundamentalists and mercenaries particularly against the indigenous minority
community and also against other nationalist, liberal and secular groups.
Entire Hindu Minority Community has been forced out of the Kashmir valley
which has sought refuge in various parts of India to escape systematic targetted killings, assault on women and also to safeguard their faith,
customs, heritage and liberal and secular ideology. The exodus of about
three lakh Hindus and one lakh liberal Kashmiri Muslims to other parts
of India has caused internal displacement and suffering of immense magnitude
in India. This aspect of human rights situation in Kashmir has been generally
ignored by the media especially by various Human Rights bodies and related
is evidenced by the uprooting of the indigenous minority community with
its 5000 years old history and ethno-cultural heritage from their land
of birth and subsequent traumatic experiences of rootlessness and denial
of basic rights to food, shelter, education and employment. To make matters
worse, the unabated spree of plunder, arson and destruction of moveable
and immoveable properties left behind by the displaced Kashmiri Hindu minority,
by the Islamist militants and foreign mercenaries in Kashmir, is designed
to deprive the affected people from their right to go
back to their home
land, as and when normalcy is restored. What is a matter of concern is
that the human rights bodies both within and outside India have hardly
aired their voice over the sufferings of the displaced persons from Kashmir.
This is despite the availability of unimpeachable evidence that the present
turmoil in the valley of Kashmir is the result of terrorist activities
being organized, instigated and operated from across the border. It is
high time that Kashmir's gory experience of terrorism and militarisation
of Islam is exposed in its true dimensions so that this menace does not
recur in other areas in the world.
since the Kashmiri Hindu and secular minded people were displaced from
the valley, they have been struggling hard to survive with dignity in extreme
conditions. They are at their pains to preserve their ethno-cultural heritage,
identity and secular ideals. Their painful and gruelling experience has
in turn generated a hope that their struggle for survival would eventually
yield the desired results. Among the several who are in this struggle for
survival, Veer Munshi is the name of a painter in exile from Kashmir valley
who puts his pain to canvas.
An artist like
Veer Munshi is one of the few painters in India who is able to well transform
his experiences in Kashmir into the language of painting. In his paintings,
one can easily find out the artist's expression of human rights violations
in Kashmir. If anyone ever believed that the importance of a painting lay
in its viewing pleasure, Veer Munshi has proved them wrong. His work is
a reaction to a deeply felt and experienced political situation i.e. being
a "refugee" (displaced person) from Kashmir and is a real depiction of
the private and collective anguish borne of separation from his home and
Kashmiri heritage and life style. In fact his paintings are a frightening
record of the beasts men have reduced themselves to and certainly his work
is not a domestic matter because the connections are with our own fate.
Veerji Munshi at Garhi studios, New
Courtesy: Mag. Kapil Kaul
is not only a painter in exile from the valley of Kashmir, but the trials
and tribulations of his struggle for survival have themselves served as
an artist's testimony in time. Veer's large canvasses tug at the heart
with the soulsearing acts of his imagination telescoping the images of
agony, the mortifying travail and chaos into rhythms of life that were
traditionally known for amity and harmony, softness, peace and unity. These
life rhythms had evolved from nature's own singular moves in the valley.
These exertions of nature have left their own imprint on human forms of
expression all along from spirituality to philosophy that emanated in the
valley since earliest times reconciling Shaivism and Buddhism and later
on, in their renewed images, Hinduism and Islam with their distinctive
flavours of Kashmir Shaivism and Kashmiri Rishism, both deriving strengths
from Kashmir's own experience of life.
this is true, but the current phase is just one such chunk of unfortunate
times not without clear indications that the balance, under the pressure
of nature's own necessities, must get restored. Thc sensitive have felt
it right from the beginning of the current sentiment in a sort of muffled
language. And the artist like Veer Munshi is one of the few painters on
the Indian scene with actual terror in his heart. The power of Munshi's
realistic approach is magnified by his ability to convey mood through composition
and corresponding use of colour. Shades of red, orange and lush green swap
their typical cherry roles for much harsher, grimmer ones, as in
In Hostages, for example, a vulture sits, leaning forward waiting to feast
on a helpless victim. Below it a captor is poised in much the same fashion.
So is the case in Satanic Call,
Moods of the Valley, Tribute
to White collar worker. Voice seems to be chocked in 'Cry of a Mountain'
one of the charcoal drawings.
slash of the primaries and the virulence of the purples, his canvases have
a serenity which is born from the intrinsic pacifism of his nature. With
hollow eyes and abjectly submissive postures, they seem to be in a situation
of momentary statis. The puppet master, an image which recurs again and
again, the hands manipulating the strings of destruction, is seen in the
painting Where do Strings lead? The puppet master who interestingly
looks like Veer Munshi himself is clothed in green and stands against the
fallen arches of destroyed doorways, against the snaking road leading to
a nowhere land with only a stray dog in the distance, while an old person
in the foreground raises a questioning finger. In another frame, a green
woman her nakedness depicting her shame, is valified and isolated. Similar
kind appears in
Horizontal Syntax. Asleep in a dream world, where
the grass is still green and there is a horizon of dreams to visit the
cloth covering her, though, takes on ominousness of a shroud.
present images which are intriguing. They cross average notions of reality
and pass into a surreal realm. Veer Munshi has not only painted his own
experiences of Islamic fundamentalist and terrorist forces in Kashmir,
but has done a yeoman service to depict the overall human rights situation
in Kashmir through his paintings.
of Himalayan Research and Cultural Foundation
Vol. 1, No.
1, Spring 1996
Image Gallery: http://koausa.org/gallery/categories.php?cat_id=40