Emerging photographer Andy Spyra (1984, Germany) is currently focusing on two personal, long-term projects in the Kashmir Valley, the location of the longest unresolved conflict in the history of the United Nations. Today, over 700,000 Indian soldiers and paramilitary forces are stationed in the region. This makes Kashmir the most highly militarised zone in the world.
Kashmir is not poor: unlike the rest of India it is rich in natural resources and most of its population has (by Indian standards) a good standard of living. But rising militancy, which began in the early 1990s, changed the valley’s fate and turned it into the so-called ‘Valley of Tears’. Before the partition of British India into the now archenemies India and Pakistan, Muslim Kashmir was an independent kingdom with its own culture and language. Nowadays, the people living in the region still feel more Kashmiri than they do Indian: they don’t want to belong to India, which is geographically, ethnologically and culturally so far removed from their own roots.
The Kashmir conflict has already lead to four wars in 1948, 1965, 1971 and 1999, and resulted in the death of over 60,000 people, with a further 10,000 still missing. Although there have been marked improvements in bilateral relations between India and Pakistan in the past, the situation in Kashmir remains fragile and tense.