• Avin Shah

'The Half Widow': Real people who inspired the BBC drama.

As promised, a second instalment of the real story behind my 2-part radio drama The Half Widow (on BBC Sounds). Last week we looked at the political situation and recent curfew in Kashmir. But who are the real people living through this crisis, and how have they reacted proactively within their traditional roles?


A Wet Nurse becomes political agitator...


"I have come to say goodbye to my son," Zoona Begum announced in a thin voice to mourners at the funeral of 19-year-old who had dropped out of college and joined a separatist group, the Hizbul Mujahideen,


A woman who had walked more than 7km in a pair of withered plastic sandals to a funeral in southern Kashmir. She had criss-crossed apple orchards to avoid detection by security forces manning streets to stop angry supporters of militants from attending the funeral.


The crowd lifted her onto their shoulders and carried her to Malla's bullet-riddled body. Once there, she kissed his bullet-pocked, deformed face. She then addressed the crowd...


A Gravedigger anticipates...


Death can come easily in Kashmir, so the good caretaker prepares for it in advance. When fighting broke out between stone-throwing protesters and the security forces in June, he dug some 50 fresh graves anticipating a procession of the dead. "We dug them up, just in case".


In the chaos and clamour of a troubled, bleeding city, it is a calm, orderly place. The martyrs' graveyard also offers a contemporary history lesson on the insurrection ever since the valley exploded into full blown militancy in the early 1990s.


There is an empty grave for Maqbool Bhatt, founder of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, a local pro-freedom guerrilla group. "The grave waits for him" says the tombstone. Bhatt was hanged and buried in a Delhi prison in the late 1980s.


And, in this article, several stories including a woman who inspired our lead character, Zameera:


A Travel Agent who becomes a communications hub


A resourceful woman whose business collapsed with the tourist industry, instead offered her landlines as a telephone service for the local community to reconnect with family during the mobile and internet blackout...


In the 3rd instalment later this month, we'll ask the questions:


Who are the militants and what is their idealogy?

What is the insurgency?

Who are the security forces in Kashmir and how do they identify enemies of the state?


You can read Part 1 here.