This week saw 3 screenings of Jashn-e-Azadi in Hyderabad, where an important (although not un-connected) coincidence cast it’s shadow over the plans. The attack by fundamentalists on writer Taslima Nasreen at the Hyderbad Press Club only a few days before had made the city “jittery”, and it was decided that the film society screening (organised by Pure Docs at the regular venue, Prasad Preview Theatre, Banjara Hills) would be strictly restricted to it’s members, and kept low key.
So once more we have it, as in a few weeks ago, when the impending court judgements of actor Sunjay Dutt, and the accused in the 2003 Mumbai train blasts, had made the Mumbai Police “jittery” enough to stop our screenings. This time, the attack on Taslima Nasreen had the same effect on Hyderabad. What did either event, or both, have to do with a film on Kashmir? We don’t know. But this is how censorship works, not necessarily by denying us Censor Certificates, or seizing DVDs, but by making us “jittery”, and casting a shadow on our imaginations. But jitters notwithstanding, the screenings went on. There is at least one excellent account of the film society screening that we would like to share, from a blog called spaniardintheworks.
As always, we followed up this preview with screenings for students, organised at the Sarojini Naidu School of Communications, University of Hyderabad, and at the Centre for Media and Communication, The English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad (what we all knew until recently as CIEFL). The Media students at the Sarojini Naidu School had an extended Q&A, and there was a very sharp and observent set of questions posed to the film: on form, technique, and even moral/ethical issues for documentary film-makers!
There is at least one response from these screenings that we’d like to pull up from the comments bar into this space. If only because it justifies our faith in the blogsphere as a space of genuine reflection, concern and intelligence:
Just reading these responses to the film especially from people who claim never to have seen the film leaves me with the thought of how badly such a perspective as the film aimed at was required. At least for us Indians. My father, an army officer posted in kashmir in the early nineties was always stumped when I asked why the Kashmiris wanted freedom. I was even more mystified when later in gatherings of officers and families, at both official and non official occasions, conspiracies were exchanged and built upon like a game of chinese whisper. Never, even by mistake was it mentioned in any way – discussion, debate, argument anything, that Kashmir was not as natural a part of India as we have been made to believe.Obviously, we learnt it on our own later but we still got stumped at one major point time and again. Always everything, every discussion, every talk of kashmir, its current armed and bloody struggle would take a turn and go around to the violence towards the pandit community and never immerge from it to look beyond- or actually back at when and why it started. Self determination is still a fancy phrase if you ask my father- to cover an Islamic movement against a Hindu state. May be for some that would have been a rallying point, but was this all there was to it? Or could there be other factors? Is it a crime to dig deeper and understand? Or at least attempt to?
Violence. Extreme acts of aggression committed against a minority community. Terrible acts such as they were and I am sure are still frequent enough to be responsible for the exodus of much of the kashmiri pandit community from Kashmir, we have to realize, and I say it in the gentlest of ways, that to understand the beginnings of a conflict, to understand and acknowledge the roots of dissent is not the same as bestowing heroism on the perpetrators of such acts.
To see the passion and the fervor of a people trying to disengage from India and to witness their struggle, to see in their folk lore, music, poetry a sense of loss, a history of servitude and oppression, a sense of humiliation borne by the community through centuries does not support, or in any way justify violence against the kashmiri pandits.
Is it so difficult to see?
Does this mean that we may never move beyond judging the Kashmir conflict from any other perspective than that of the pandit community’s exodus? Will it bring us any closer to any understanding of the issue at hand or should we just close the chapter at the happy note of tit for tat for the piling corpses of the muslim kashmiris responsible for the ‘national crisis’?
What has been done to the pandit community was terrible. And nobody is in denial of that. The only thing which a lot of us Indians ARE in denial of, is what the ‘other side’ wants. And why they want it. But the fact remains that whether we approve of it or not, they DO want it, there politicians we decided to throw into jails wanted it, their parents wanted it, their children are dying for want of it, can we close our ears and eyes and just scream bloody murder at them and hope to erase them from the face of India and snatch peace from them?
Everytime an attempt is made to understand the struggle should we all raise our voices and crush it in the name of nationalism or hinduism or patriotism (which are all increasing interchangeable today anyway) or even vengeance?
Cant we for once just listen? Is it too much to ask for? And if we see or hear something that does not sound fair to us, cant we analyse and put it in words that express something other than a loud shrill series of abusive viscious accusations of glorifying terrorism? Is that the only choice? Either you are with the terrorists or with us?
And If I were to go looking for a struggle armed or otherwise and only choose to understand those which suite my sensibility, my principles, my ethics, I may not really be with any choice whatsoever. No movement, no resistance will be without its share of ‘black spots’, but then to deny it its existence, its meaning, its history and to rally around to crush every attempt at a fresh discussion is just an expression of a mentality dipped in hatred, intolerance and prejudice.