Page last updated at 16:13 GMT, Friday, 19 September 2008 17:13 UK

Kashmir's mobile phone chroniclers

By Soutik Biswas
BBC News, Srinagar

People with mobile phones at a protest demonstration in Srinagar
For many people, recording events on mobile phones has become a hobby

Minutes after 35-year-old Javed Amir Mir was shot in the head by security forces in Srinagar, capital of Indian-administered Kashmir, a young boy recorded his death on his mobile phone camera.

The shaky and grainy clip shows a blood splattered face lying on the road. You can hear the wailing women and the screaming men in the background

Across the city, 25-year-old Imran Ahmed Wani's death was also recorded on mobile phones by friends rushing him to hospital after he was shot during a demonstration.

In fact, Mr Wani's last days unspool effortlessly on pictures which can be seen on the mobiles of his friends - in one he is smiling at the camera, 10 days before his death; in another, life is slowly ebbing out of him as he lies, legs akimbo, in a ambulance racing to get him to the hospital.

"We have all these pictures on our phones. His memories live and move with us," says his friend and mass communications student, Sheikh Suhail, 24.

'Interesting footage'

As the mainly Muslim Kashmir valley erupted into protests last month after a row over transfer of land in the region snowballed into a movement for freedom from India, armies of mobile-phone toting youngsters began trawling the city to record the events.

Pro-freedom protests in Srinagar
A row over land has snowballed into a nationalist upsurge

The images and recordings of those momentous events have been swapped between friends, or put up on popular video sharing sites.

One of those, YouTube, spits out nearly 250 results when a search is done for "Srinagar protest" and many of these clips have been put up by youngsters from the valley.

There are now mobile phone recordings being swapped around which have reached almost cult status.

A pro-freedom procession, security forces thrashing children playing in a city park, a friend or a neighbour shot down during a protest, a funeral procession.

In a way, the images and clips comprise an uneven chronicle of the troubled life and times in the valley by these "citizen journalists" of Kashmir.

"This is a new trend in Kashmir. There are a lot of young people moving around the city with such mobile phone recordings," says Amjad Mir of Sen TV, a local news and current affairs channel.

In the restive Batamaloo area in Srinagar, a 29-year-old man, who owns a small mobile phone shop in the city, says he goes out every other day with his phone in search of "interesting footage".

"This is the first time ordinary people like us are coming out with our phones and shooting. This is the only way we can show to the world what is happening here," says the young man, who prefers to be unnamed.

'History in making'

During a recent curfew in the valley, he recorded people in his neighbourhood collecting several thousand bottles of drinking water to supply a local hospital which had run out.

The Batamaloo man shows me some of his other clips on the phone - crowds gathering for a demonstration, tyres burning on the streets, troops chasing crowds. A friend, he says, has clips of a man shot down by troops on his cheap Chinese mobile phone.

Srinagar street during a curfew
The mobile phone clips chronicle life in the city

His favourite is a nine-minute recording of a protest demonstration that he shot on his favourite Nokia phone from a flyover overlooking the road.

"I have never seen so many people in my life as that day. It was a big, peaceful demonstration. And I just kept recording," he says.

Chasing events on mobile phones have now become an obsessive hobby with these young men - they charge their phones regularly every night and hit the road next morning looking for some action.

A young journalist says the mobile phone chroniclers are usually internet-savvy students, who shoot clips and upload them on the internet.

"I want to preserve these memories. They are history in the making," he says.

His favourite clip: local boys demolishing an 18-year-old bunker of Indian troops in his neighbourhood during the recent agitation.

The Kashmir conflict now seems to have become fully digitalised.

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