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Kashmir's Crossroads

Self Rule, Indian Integration, and Party Politics

A Kashmiri woman Ishrat Ghani cries while narrating the story of her mother's death during a day-long token hunger strike organized by the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) in Srinagar February 26, 2011. Fayaz Kabli / Reuters

Two grassy green mounds sit beside each other next to a makeshift irrigation canal in Ajas-Bazipora, twin villages near the Bandipora district of Jammu and Kashmir. Unmarked and nondescript, the knolls are easily mistaken for an undulation of packed soil. They are, in fact, the graves of two Pakistani militants killed in an encounter with the Indian army in 2009. Villagers gathered around a makeshift mud embankment tell me how they were called on to bury the bodies of those killed in conflict. When people were killed in encounters with the army, they said, the army handed over their bodies to the local police, who in turn handed bodies over to the villagers to bury in accordance with Islamic ritual. In this case, the bodies were unidentified; locals were only told that they were militants, and they remain unsure of the truth behind this claim.

The villages in Kashmir’s most

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