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Giving dignity to suppressed voices

Dec 12, 2008

At times words are not enough to raise a voice against injustice and denial. A photo exhibition jointly organised by Amnesty International India and Centre for Media and Alternative Communication in the Indian capital was a befitting tribute to the defence of human rights and freedom of expression.

The Valley has been silent for many years. The silence is numbing and speaks volumes about the fear and insecurity that never escapes the minds of people. What can be heard more often is the noise – deafening gunshots and blasts that have become a part of people’s lives.


Orphaned by militancy, killed in a fake encounter, disappeared in twilight never to come back – there is no dearth of such traumatising tales in Kashmir.

The Valley’s scenic landscape has been masqueraded by barbed wires, bunkers, army check posts and heavily armed men patrolling the streets. The pleasant free-floating shikara on the picturesque Dal Lake seems to fade against the shrieks of bloodshed and violence.

Parthiv Shah’s lens that have captured these images shake us out of our numbed selves as we stumble into a world marred by death, suffering and sabotage.

These images were among other equally heart rending ones which adorned the exhibition organised as part of Amnesty’s International Week of Justice Festival (IWJF) from December 5-10, 2008 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Art for activism

Parthiv Shah

The photo exhibition highlighted issues of death penalty, disappearances, war on terror, prison experiences and trials, freedom of expression, particularly of journalists and artists, along with those of border conflicts and citizenship, ideologies, displacements, evictions and child labour.

Around the world, governments have shown more interest in the abuse of power or in the pursuit of political self-interest than in respecting the rights of those they lead.


Breaking through indifference

In one of his exquisite pieces of work, Shah depicts Nazir Josh, a local theatre performer in Kashmir in varying shades of emotion.

“I threw different words at him like ‘army’, ‘militancy’ and asked him to react instantly,” Shah remarked. “His expressions bore the misery and angst against injustice.”

Among other striking images by South Asia’s finest photographers were small girls working 11-hours a day in a Dhaka battery recycling shop, an Indian farmer toiling hard on his parched field, displaced civilians protesting against the atrocities of the Burmese military junta, Indian mothers praying for their disappeared sons.

Black dust

These included the works of Sohrab Hura, Suvendu Chatterji, Swapan Nayak, Sonia Jabbar, Harikrishna Katragadda, Gowhar Fazili, Sara Rahbar, Salima Hashmi and Daniel Pepper.

The compassionate rebel exists in all of us. The challenge is developing ways to tell our own stories and bear witness to the stories of others in order to create a more just society and protect the human rights of all.

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