Changing Kashmir: From deadly killings to kids’ Vlogging in snowfall

Story by  Ahmed Ali Fayyaz | Posted by  Aasha Khosa | Date 06-02-2024
A woman clicking her selfie in Srinagar's Lal Chowk in snowfall (All photos: Basit Zargar)
A woman clicking her selfie in Srinagar's Lal Chowk in snowfall (All photos: Basit Zargar)


Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

On 1 February 2024, Zeeba and Zainab, the 4-year-old twin daughters of Talib Hussain Mir of Kandiwara, Kokernag, Anantnag, who worked with the Jammu and Kashmir Bank, shot a 73-second video while enjoying the season’s first snowfall. It was too mild to give a traditional rhythm to the celebration of the “Barf-e-Nav” across the valley but the cute duo set the internet on fire with their Vlog.

Assalamu alikum guys, you can watch that the snow has finally fallen. You must be feeling how we are enjoying; as if we are sitting in the middle of paradise”, exclaimed the ecstatic duo on camera while copying popular Vlogers, and YouTubers.

 “Aap ko lag raha hoga ki yeh doodh ki lehren hain. Yeh doodh ki lehren nahi baraf hai”, said the cuties in action.

Zaiba and Zainab

“Almighty has finally listened to my prayers and that of my sister. Now we are enjoying very much and having great fun”, they asserted in one voice, both with matching countenances and expressions and in identical outfits—including the typical Kashmiri Pheran.

A woman, not in the frame and most probably their mother behind the phone camera, asks the babies if they are shivering in the cold. “Sardi tou lag rahi hai, lekin enjoy tou karna hai na!” (Of course, we are feeling cold; but one has to enjoy), pat came the reply from the leader.

Uploaded on Facebook, YouTube, and ‘X’ by hundreds of social media users, including the senior Kashmiri bureaucrat in Delhi Dr Shah Faesal, the Anantnag snow video went viral. 

After Anand Mahindra, Chairman of Mahindra Group, posted it for his 11 million followers on ‘X’ on Sunday, it was setting the internet on fire.

“Sled on Snow. Shayari on Snow. My vote goes to the second…”, Mahindra captioned the video.

“Soooooooo cute. May Ram ji bless both of them. bas inko kisi ki nazar na lage”, Saga of India reposted. “It seems as if the cloud has descended to the earth with its two fairies”, Shabnam Firdoush commented. 

Hundreds of others showered prayers and emojis of love on the cuties.

The Anantnag clip came after five or six such videos from the valley’s young children on social media in the last 5 years. Taking note of one such video, Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered the lessening of the burden of books and long online classes for primary school students across Jammu and Kashmir. It generated a historic impact.

Tourists taking a selfie on mobile on the bank of Dal Lake in Srinagar

Another such video by a young girl showed the dilapidated condition and potholes on the roads in Anantnag. Soon there was action from the highest quarters.

Now match this enthusiasm on the snowfall to an ambiance of fear, gloom, and mourning that ruled Kashmir exactly 5 years back. Nobody would dare to address a demand to the Indian Prime Minister or to celebrate a snowfall.

Diversion of attention from the freedom struggle’, as they called it, was an unpardonable crime. Reprisals from militants and trolling from their well-connected ecosystem across the intelligentsia would silence anybody living in or having a family in Kashmir.

The killing of 40 CRPF personnel in a suicide attack on 14 February 2019, which came as a turning point and nemesis to the 30-year-long separatist insurgency, happened in just two weeks of a young, innocent woman’s barbaric killing.

Twenty-three-year-old Ishrat Muneer of Dangarpora Pulwama was killed in cold blood on camera and her body was dropped on a mass of snow under a walnut tree at Cherbugh on 31 January 2019.

The 10-second video clip of the ISIS-type killing of Ishrat Muneer went viral on social media and spread a wave of terror across the valley. Millions of the helpless Kashmiris saw her beseeching her kidnappers and begging for her life with folded hands. Just one shot from an AK-56 rifle, aimed with precision at her heart, silenced her forever.

Children enjoying in the freshly fallen snow inSrinagar

Some Facebook pages, perceived to be operating on behalf of militants, labeled her as the informer responsible for the top Al-Badar commander Zeenatul Islam’s killing in an encounter on 12 January that year.

Eleven back-to-back sessions of funeral prayers were performed for Zeenatul Islam a.k.a Dr Usman, an A++ category terrorist and a ‘commander’ who reportedly escaped from police nine times during search operations. 

Ishrat was not spared even after being Islam’s maternal cousin. She was gunned down on the snow exactly where the slain militant’s funeral prayers had been conducted.

Across the Rambiara rivulet at Ishrat’s Dangarpora neighborhood in Pulwama town, a pall of gloom befell when her family learned about her killing. Few of the family mustered the courage to even collect her body. It was interred only after the militant’s father Ghulam Hassan Shah appeared at her home and raised questions over her assassination. Less than a hundred neighbours and relatives participated in her last rites.

Ishrat was pursuing a post-graduate course with Indira Gandhi National Open University whilst simultaneously taking a computer training course at the Degree College in Pulwama. On way back to her home from the college, she was abducted and shot dead.

Celebrating the season’s first snowfall was a centuries-old tradition in Kashmir. In the 1950s through 1980s, Bollywood films like Shammi Kapoor-Saira Banu starrer Junglee (1961) added colour to this spectacle. Nothing stopped it until a hell broke loose in 1989.

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As the fear of the gun finally began receding, the people of Kashmir in droves began flocking to gardens, public parks, and tourist resorts to celebrate the snowfall. Many of the residents as well as tourists began enjoying ‘Sheen Jung’ and making snowman cliparts of the native fauna and flora. The valley’s first Igloo café appeared at Gulmarg in January 2021 and an Igloo glass-wall restaurant at the same hotel in January 2023.