ashmirwalla: the name immediately brings to mind the image of an ordinary Kashmiri and his/her life. It is this story of ordinary Kashmiris, and the havoc that the conflict in the Valley has unleashed in their lives, that is mirrored on the Kashmirwalla website. Mainstream news has been systematically criticised for its reportage and methodology vis-a-vis conflict areas within the country. Chhattisgarh, the North East and Kashmir are some of the regions that have been affected by the language employed by mainstream media and the incidents that it chooses to report and conversely ignore. Started by Fahad Shah, the Kashmirwalla aims at painting the real picture of Kashmir across the world sans censorship and biases. Started as a blog in early 2009, today, it is a full-fledged online magazine with a large following.
"We wanted a breathing space, wherein the reality of Kashmir and the incidents that occur in the valley would get honestly reported," says Shah, who is also the magazine's editor. The final-year journalism student at the Kashmir University is helped by a number of students, activists, journalists, freelancers, artists and poets in sustaining the online magazine. Since its first issue, unveiled on 7 May, the magazine has chosen a theme for each issue. "We have had themes like the issues pertaining to Kashmiri Pundits, Kashmir and literature and the tragedies of Kashmir, including the bloody massacre of 1931, on our website," Shah says. The current issue is focused on the unmarked graves controversy that has rocked the valley. In a haunting piece by independent freelance journalist Raheel Khursheed, titled Dead Men Talking, he questions the skewed logic behind labelling the pits with dead bodies as human graves. Khursheed points out that graves denote an element of respect bestowed on those who have passed away, but in this case they were buried merely to annihilate evidence.
||“We wanted a breathing space, wherein the reality of Kashmir and the incidents that occur in the Valley would get honestly reported” Fahad Shah
Along with news from Kashmir, the website also has a fiction section and an arts and column corner. Short stories, poems, profiles and autobiographical narratives published on the website poignantly reflect the chequered everyday lives of the people of the valley. The online magazine also has photo essays that chronicle the changing times in Kashmir. "It took me more than three months to capture the images, but they are erased the moment they appear," says Mohabid, a photo journalist with the website whose recent work was based on the revolutionary graffiti that appear along the length and breadth of the valley. The Kashmirwalla initiative has generated a lot of attention and has resulted in Shah being shortlisted for the 2011 Manthan South Asia Award that felicitates emerging digital innovators.