The notion of home is complex and notably so today in an era of mass migration and displacement. For the residents of Kashmir — a mountainous state positioned above India’s northern tip — their homeland’s identity remains contested. Since the partition of India in 1947, during which the independent dominions of India and Pakistan replaced the British Raj, both countries have clashed over ownership of the region. India controls most of Kashmir, with Pakistan and China governing smaller sections, and today, the state continues to be a heavily militarised zone. In late 2019, the Indian government intensified tensions when they revoked the limited autonomy of Jammu and Kasmir, heightening the military presence and enforcing an internet blackout, which largely remains in place, to limit dissent. The move has paralysed the region, bringing many of its schools and businesses to a close, and further disempowering its residents, who have consistently fought for sovereignty in place of colonial occupation. In spite of the volatile political situation, Kashmir’s landscape is spectacular: snow envelops its jagged mountain tops and, …
For the majority of his childhood in South Birmingham, Mahtab Hussain was harassed for the colour of his skin. Constantly pestered by children at school, he was even heckled on the street by strangers yelling out their car windows. “I didn’t really see my own colour as a problem, but for 10 years of my life it became a huge issue,” he says.
The title of his new book, Going Back Home To Where I Came From, is inspired by the racist insults he endured growing up. The project is a document of his trip to Kashmir in 2016, where he spent three weeks in his mother’s rural hometown, Kotli.
“I meet people with more empathy and more care towards one another in war situations or in conflict around the world than I have ever experienced in Europe. People want to share the little they have with me because I have talked to them and shown an interest in them,” says Jan Grarup. His work has taken him to the sites of the worst conflicts – from obvious examples such as Iraq and Iran, to forgotten areas like the Central African Republic. Each place he visits, he stays to learn about the culture and customs of the people before taking their photographs. In these places of despair and destruction, Grarup often finds hope and resilience. But the Western world needs to be more active and share the responsibility to help these regions return to a peaceful existence.