The Art of Resistance

Report from Kashmir

The village of Wathoora, nestled in the Kashmir Valley, blends into a dense oak forest. You approach the village on a bumpy dirt track that leads away from the potholed main road. Wathoora emerges gradually: a pile of bricks, a wrinkled old man dressed in a white phiran. At the town’s center, a warren of stone, brick, and sheet metal is home to three hundred families. On the warm Sunday I arrived, the village was relaxed. Women were washing their pots in a small stream that feeds a green river where a group of teenage boys were diving, wrestling, and splashing.

Peel back the peaceful surface of Wathoora and one finds a story mirroring the bloody violence that has wracked so many towns throughout the Kashmir Valley. Sixty years ago, in the aftermath of British withdrawal, India and Pakistan fought their first war over Kashmir. This has been followed over the past two decades by a brutal conflict between a Kashmiri insurgency and the Indian army. Throughout this period, Wathoora has survived on a curious combination of agriculture and folk theater.

Bhand Pather is a form of traditional Kashmiri theatre that is passed down not just through families, but through entire villages. There are about thirty villages in Kashmir where Bhand Pather is performed, and Wathoora is among the best known and most celebrated. I visited Ghulam Ali Majboor, the leader of the National Bhand Theatre, at his home in Wathoora. As...

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About the Author

Samuel W. duPont is a recent graduate of Tufts University and a freelance journalist. His research in Kashmir was sponsored by the Institute for Global Leadership at Tufts.